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This Week In Trade

Lighthizer, House Democrats to meet again on USMCA; EU trade officials in town

Posted: July 22, 2019

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will hold another meeting with members of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement working group this week, ahead of a congressional recess. Lighthizer also will meet with officials from Brussels in Washington, DC, and prepare for an expected trip to China next week.

Last week House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said Lighthizer would return to Capitol Hill for an enforcement-focused meeting on Wednesday after the working group met with the trade rep to discuss environmental issues. During this week’s meeting, Neal said the group intended to work with USTR to “map out a continuing and robust process -- including through our respective, able staffs -- for building on the working group and USTR's progress into the next phase in August,” according to a July 17 statement.

The House will hold its last votes before the recess on Friday and will return on Sept. 9. The Senate’s last day in session before the summer recess is Aug. 2. The upper chamber also will return the second week of September.

Several members of the working group traveled to Mexico City over the weekend to meet with Mexican officials about outstanding USMCA issues. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said the delegation, which also included members of the House Ways & Means Committee, was “denied access to a Goodyear plant to see workers conditions.”

“If workers’ rights are not protected in Mexico, then the new NAFTA is not going to work for American workers,” DeLauro said in a July 20 tweet. “We need strong, enforceable labor protections in the deal. #FixUSMCA.”

Eyeing Europe

European Director-General for Trade Sabine Weyand will be in town this week for meetings with U.S. officials. Weyand also spoke about the bilateral trade relationship on Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The European Union held parliamentary elections in May and a new Commission will be installed by Nov. 1. Until then, President Jean-Claude Juncker and his cabinet, including EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, will continue to serve in their roles.

Last month Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said “until they get their act together and give the new trade commissioner a mandate, it’s very unlikely that substantial progress can be made” in trade talks, which have stalled due to differences over the scope of a potential deal.

China check-in

U.S. and Chinese officials touched base last week via phone on Thursday. The call included Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as well as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan. A U.S. delegation will travel to Beijing next week, according to the South China Morning Post, for the first face-to-face meetings since last month’s G20 summit. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative did not respond to a request for comment on future meetings or calls.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body convened on Monday. The U.S. blocked a first request from China for a dispute panel to rule on safeguard measures imposed by Washington on imports of solar cells. President Trump applied tariff-rate quotas for a four-year period in February 2017.

China will be able to renew its request, which the U.S. cannot block, at the next DSB meeting on Aug. 15.

Events this week

  • The Global Business Dialogue on Tuesday will host Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and business representatives at the National Press Club for a discussion on USMCA and “the Business of North America.” The discussion will feature John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Sergio Gomez Lora, head of the Business Coordinating Council of Mexico; and Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association.
  • On Wednesday, business association leaders will host a USMCA press conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss what they call an “urgent need” to pass the deal. The event will include representatives from “diverse sectors of the U.S. economy” and will be hosted by U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue, according to the Chamber.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection will host its 2019 trade symposium in Chicago on Tuesday and Wednesday. Assistant Commerce Secretary for Industry and Analysis Nazak Nikakhtar and Kevin McAleenan, the acting Homeland Security secretary and the CBP commissioner, are expected to speak.
  • The U.S. International Trade Commission will hear from industry representatives and academics on Wednesday about U.S. trade and investment with Sub-Saharan Africa. The public hearing is part of the ITC’s fact-finding probe into trade with the region.
  • In collaboration with the Congressional Brazil Caucus, the U.S.-Brazil Business Council will host a business briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Caucus co-chairs Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Darin LaHood (R-IL) will deliver remarks, as will senior officials from the Brazilian Embassy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. -- Isabelle Hoagland (ihoagland@iwpnews.com)

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