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This Week In Trade

U.S., China look for a place to sign a deal; WTO set to hear three cases involving the U.S.

Posted: November 04, 2019

The U.S. and China have yet to fix a location to ink the first phase of a trade agreement, though President Trump insists the signing will take place in the U.S., possibly in Iowa.

“First, I want to get the deal,” Trump told reporters on Sunday. “I mean, the meeting place, to me, is going to be pretty easy. But first, we’ll see if we get the deal. And if we get the deal, the meeting place will come very easily. It’ll be someplace in the U.S.”

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to meet at a November summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Santiago, Chile, which was canceled last week due to protests in the country. Trump on Friday suggested Iowa as a possible location for the signing. Alaska, Hawaii and locations in China are also possibilities, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview with Bloomberg on Sunday.

A summit in Iowa would complicate the administration’s efforts to sell the “phase-one” deal with China, according to former acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler.

It will make it look like all about agriculture, and less about the issues that brought us to the table in the beginning of the trade war,” Cutler, the vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, tweeted on Saturday.

Both sides reported progress in the trade talks last week after a Friday call between the principal negotiators. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on Friday that the agriculture, currency and financial services chapters were “virtually completed.” Trump has said the first phase of the deal will comprise 60 percent of an envisioned larger pact.

 The State Department on Monday released a report on the implementation of the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, the trade plank of which calls for bilateral deals with countries in the region. The report touts the recently signed U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, the renegotiation of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the decision to grant India Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status, allowing more defense and high-tech exports.

Meanwhile, in Geneva …

Hearings are set this week for three World Trade Organizations disputes involving the U.S. Two of the three -- brought by the European Union and Norway -- challenge the U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, which the U.S. argues are justified under the WTO’s national security exemption. The EU and Norway, meanwhile, counter that the duties are disguised safeguard measures and should be treated as such at the WTO. The U.S.-EU dispute hearing began on Monday, with the U.S.-Norway hearing to follow on Wednesday.

The third dispute, which began on Monday in Geneva and will be heard by the Appellate Body, pits the U.S. against its northern neighbor over U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber. Earlier this year, the U.S. scored one of its first wins on a controversial antidumping methodology used by the Commerce Department known as “zeroing.” The Appellate Body has repeatedly ruled against zeroing, which is among the U.S. critiques of the body in its ongoing quest to bring the body back in line with its original mandate.

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo will be in the U.S. on Thursday, meeting with U.S. officials and lawmakers including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Neal heads north

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) will go to Ottawa to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, in part to give an update on USMCA negotiations between the House working group, which Neal leads, and USTR.

Neal last week told reporters he also hoped to get the AFL-CIO and trade staff from the House Ways & Means Committee and USTR together to continue hashing out USMCA labor issues while the House is in recess this week.

Mexican Under Secretary for North America Jesús Seade said last week that Mexico and Canada would have to review and approve any deal struck between Democrats and USTR. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), a member of the Ways & Means trade subcommittee, meanwhile, said last week he was “leaning no” on USMCA due to continuing concerns with Mexican labor reform.

Events this week

  • American University’s Washington College of Law on Tuesday will host its “XV Symposium on International Trade: Seeking Answers to a Changing Trading System.” Panel discussions include “U.S. Sanctions and Trade War: winners and losers,” “WTO cross-cutting issues: where do environment, gender and labor stand?” and “The Multilateral Trading System: what to expect."
  • Also on Tuesday, the Association of Women in International Trade will host an off-the-record discussion on the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement with Assistant USTR for Japan, Korea, and APEC Michael Beeman.
  • The Washington International Trade Association will host an event on Wednesday, “Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digital Economy.” Panelists will include Elizabeth Coffin, vice president of global tax policy at United Technologies Corporation; Jennifer McCloskey, vice president of policy at the Information Technology Industry Council; Warren Payne, senior adviser at Mayer Brown; and Catherine Schultz, vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council.
  • The Peterson Institute for International Economics and China Finance 40 will host their fifth annual China Economic Forum on Wednesday. The forum will feature two panel discussion, the first on the Chinese financial system and its impact on China’s economic outlook and the second on the U.S.-China trade conflict.
  • The Coalition of Services Industries on Thursday will hold its 11th annual Global Services Summit, with the theme “Unleashing the Benefits of Services and Digital Trade.” Panel topics include “The Post-Brexit Landscape for Services Trade,” “APEC and the Asia Pacific's Role in Paving the Way for Digital Trade Flows,” and “Congressional Panel: Trade Views from Capitol Hill.” -- Anshu Siripurapu (anshus@iwpnews.com)

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