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This Week In Trade

U.S., China to check in on phase-one; seasonal growers get their first hearing

Posted: August 10, 2020

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to hold a video conference with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Friday for the first high-level check-in on the status of the phase-one trade agreement that went into effect six months ago -- and the two negotiators will have plenty to talk about.

Southeastern seasonal growers, meanwhile, will get their day in the sun this week as USTR is slated to hold its first of two hearings on issues facing farmers in Georgia and Florida.

Since the U.S.-China phase-one deal was signed in January and implemented in February, the coronavirus has ravaged the global economy and the Trump administration has taken to blaming Beijing for the virus and its disastrous impact on the U.S. economy. China has instituted a national security law affecting Hong Kong that led President Trump to announce the special administrative region would be treated as mainland China for trade purposes. Most recently, Trump said he would ban two Chinese tech companies -- ByteDance and TenCent -- from operating in the U.S. because their products, TikTok and WeChat, pose national security risks.

One issue that will likely be top-of-mind for the trade negotiations: China’s lagging purchases of U.S. goods. Trump has often touted the purchase requirements in the phase-one pact, but China is well behind the pace needed to come close to those goals. China’s goods purchases in the first half of 2020 are about equal to last year’s, despite Beijing’s committing to buy $63.9 billion more U.S. goods this year than in 2017, the high watermark for U.S. exports to China.

USTR and Agriculture Department officials have repeatedly praised China’s implementation of the phase-one deal. Chinese officials also continue to cite implementation of the pact as a priority. “We must continue to implement the first phase of the China-U.S. economic and trade agreement, and implement the financial reforms and opening-up measures announced in recent years,” Yi Gang, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, said in an interview with Xinhua on Sunday, according to an informal translation.

Lighthizer’s call with Liu He is part of the implementation of the phase-one deal, which requires that USTR and the vice premier meet every six months.

U.S. facing retaliation

USTR’s hearing on issues facing seasonal growers will be held virtually on Thursday after two in-person hearings -- one in Florida and the other in Georgia -- were canceled earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Another virtual hearing is slated for next week. Seasonal growers are seeking protections from Mexican produce imports, despite not having standing under U.S. trade remedy laws. A U.S. proposal to give seasonal producers standing was a divisive issue in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement negotiations and eventually dropped by the U.S.

Mexico will watch developments on the U.S.’ handling of seasonal issues closely and has re-upped its threat to hit U.S. goods with retaliation if the U.S. imposes restrictions on Mexican produce.

The U.S. is facing more immediate retaliatory actions from Canada after the Trump administration re-imposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum last week. Canada has already issued a list of U.S. goods that could soon be subject to retaliatory duties. Canada is planning to hit $2.7 billion worth of U.S aluminum products with retaliatory tariffs.


  • On Tuesday, the Washington International Trade Association continues its series with World Trade Organization director-general candidates with a webinar featuring Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.
  • The American Association of Exporters and Importers’ 99th annual conference and expo will kick off on Tuesday. Speakers are set to include AAEI President and CEO Marianne Rowden, World Trade Organization Deputy Director-General Alan Wolff, and several U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
  • The Center for Global Development will host a webinar on Tuesday to debate whether China is “good for developing countries.” Participants include Hannah Ryder, CEO and founder of Development Reimagined; Ian Mitchell, co-director of CGD's Development Cooperation in Europe; and Scott Morris, director of U.S. development policy at CGD.
  • The Export-Import Bank’s board of directors will hold a teleconference on Thursday to hear stakeholder presentations on Ex-Im’s partnership with the Private Export Funding Corporation.
  • Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) will participate in a Thursday webinar hosted by The Hill on U.S. businesses and global exports. Larsen will be joined by Karen Horan, vice president for global business development at the National Confectioners Association; Josh Ghaim, co-founder of Ignite Venture Studio; and Michael Evans, director and president of the Alibaba Group.
  • USDA’s general counsel, Stephen Vaden, on Thursday will discuss the U.S. food supply chain during the pandemic, among other issues, during a webinar hosted by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies Tyler Lawyers Chapter.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday will host assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers to discuss Chinese espionage with John Andrew Lewis, the director of CSIS’ technology policy program. -- Brett Fortnam (bfortnam@iwpnews.com)