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This Week In Trade

USMCA clock could begin ticking this week, but timing remains a major question mark

Posted: July 08, 2019

Tuesday is earliest the Trump administration can send a U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement implementing bill to Congress, but the submission of the legislation could be pushed back until after Congress’ August recess as House Democrats continue to push for changes to the deal.

House Ways & Means trade subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has said Congress would not be able to pass USMCA before the August recess, though Republican lawmakers and business groups continue to press to get the deal passed this month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has a history of suspending fast-track procedures for trade agreement implementing bills, has said USMCA could be re-opened for “surgical” changes. And President Trump has said the pact could be tweaked to appease Democrats’ concerns. House Democrats have outlined issues with USMCA’s enforcement, labor, environment and pharmaceutical provisions.

Submitting the bill before House Democrats want it could again raise tensions between the lower chamber and the White House. When the administration in May sent Congress a draft statement of administrative action while House Democrats were discussing changes to USMCA, Pelosi said it was “not a positive step.” She has since named lawmakers to negotiate changes to the deal with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has praised the speaker's handling of the deal to date.

Once the administration gives Congress the implementing bill, it starts the clock on a series of congressional deadlines Congress must abide by when considering a trade deal unless the rules established in the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority law are suspended.

The Ways & Means Committee has 45 session days to report the implementing bill out of Congress, according to TPA; otherwise, the bill is automatically discharged. The lower chamber must vote on the bill within 15 days of the bill's discharge from committee. The Senate Finance Committee must then report the bill within 15 session days of the House vote. The full Senate is then required to vote on the bill within 15 days of the Finance Committee's action.

Those deadlines represent the maximum amount of time the implementing bill can be considered by Congress under current rules. But the two chambers may act concurrently. The House will be in session for 53 more days in 2019.

Commerce to provide update on export control reform, 232s

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security will hold its annual export controls conference this week, with officials slated to provide updates on the implementation of the Export Control Reform Act and investigations the agency is conducting under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. The conference gets underway on Tuesday. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley and Assistant Commerce Secretary for Industry and Analysis Nazak Nikakhtar will give opening remarks. Nikakhtar has been nominated to be Commerce’s under secretary of industry and security, but her nomination is stalled in the Senate because some senators are demanding access to Commerce’s Section 232 report on the national security implications of auto and auto parts imports, which Nikakhtar helped author.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will speak at the conference on Tuesday. The first day of the conference will include sessions on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and the implementation of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, as well as on Section 232.

Wednesday’s schedule includes a session on telecom security, supply chain and 5G, issues that have been tied to U.S.-China trade negotiations. Shortly after talks broke down in May, Trump issued an executive order on the information communications technology supply chain that laid the groundwork for a potential import ban on all Chinese ICT goods.

BIS officials will be on hand on Wednesday to provide demonstrations on how to use the Section 232 portal, through which companies can file for exclusion requests or object to requests that have been filed.

Also scheduled is a Wednesday session on emerging and foundational technologies. BIS is expected to release draft regulations on foundational technologies as soon as this week, according to industry sources. BIS issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on emerging technologies last November that drew the ire of the business community because of its broad definition of “emerging technologies,” which included 12 categories. The agency is expected to issue a series of regulations aimed at clarifying what constitutes “emerging technologies,” but there is no timeline for the rollout of those rules.

DC think tank launches India report card

The Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday will launch a report card to score India’s progress on implementing economic reforms that have been promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The report card will be updated monthly as CSIS analysts “see tangible progress on individual reforms,” according to the CSIS website.

Trade tensions with India have been on the rise in recent months. The Trump administration recently rescinded India’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences and last week took steps to launch a World Trade Organization dispute against retaliatory tariffs India has put on U.S. goods over the past year. India is one of several countries that have retaliated against the U.S. for its Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump met with Modi on the sidelines of the G20 leaders meeting in Osaka, Japan, last month and discussed negotiating a trade deal. A delegation of U.S. negotiators is slated to travel to India this week for trade negotiations.

New report on China’s trade relationship with the world

Peterson Institute for International Economics scholars on Wednesday will discuss a new report by the McKinsey Global Institute that examines how China’s trade relationship with the world is changing. The report says “the world’s exposure to China has increased, while China’s exposure to the world has fallen in relative terms,” and the authors explore whether that trend could compel China to reduce its engagement in the global economy.

Events this week

  • The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Wednesday will discuss whether the U.S. is “justified” in challenging China’s trade policies. ITIF President Robert Atkinson will participate in a discussion with Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; and Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute.
  • The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission will meet on Thursday to review and edit drafts of its annual report to Congress.
  • The Meridian International Center will host Rep. Blumenauer on Friday for a discussion on U.S. trade policy. -- Brett Fortnam (bfortnam@iwpnews.com)