Trade on the White House’s menu
With help from Doug Palmer and Catherine Boudreau
TRADE ON THE MENU: This week will see high-profile visits from two of the United States’ biggest trading partners, Canada and the European Union, putting trade in the spotlight at the highest levels of government.
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European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will be here March 9-11; on Friday, she and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will discuss the latest state of play in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks. On Thursday, she’ll participate in a lunchtime event at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The Swedish national will also meet with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Deputy National Security Adviser Adewale Adeyemo, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Although the AFL-CIO has been a vocal opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s still keeping an open mind on TTIP, arguing on its website that “increasing trade ties with the EU could be beneficial for both American and European workers but as with all trade agreements, the rules matter.” It notes that Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Slovakia have economies and worker rights that trail behind other EU member states.
Meanwhile, Deputy USTR Michael Punke, the political lead for TTIP, will travel to France on Tuesday to meet with French trade minister Matthias Fekl on the U.S.-EU deal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit President Barack Obama at the White House Thursday for an official state dinner; while his government still hasn’t taken an official position on TPP, it participated in the signing of the Asia-Pacific pact a month ago. Notably, Canada and the European Union put the finishing touches in their bilateral trade deal last week, signaling at least that the prime minister is serious about getting pending trade pacts done. But the Canada-EU deal contained the EU’s new language on investor-state dispute settlement, which the U.S. is unlikely to accept as is.
IT’S MONDAY, MARCH 5! Welcome to Morning Trade, where we’d like to wish a very happy birthday to Adam Behsudi’s son, Zacary, who celebrated his second birthday over the weekend. As always, send along tips and thoughts to me: email@example.com or @vtg2.
LAWMAKERS URGE TRUDEAU TO ‘RAISE THE DE MINIMIS’: Most U.S. goods enter Canada duty free under the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, to qualify for the exemption, firms have to fill out a customs form and comply with rules-of-origin provisions, which can be complicated. To help small and medium-sized U.S. exporters struggling with that situation, a group of three lawmakers from Oregon and Connecticut want Canada to increase its “de minimis” level at which small shipments are exempt from duties.
The United States increased its de minimis level from $200 to $800 as part of the recently signed customs bill. In comparison, Canada’s de minimis is C$20 for online purchases, C$200 for goods bought on a short trip abroad and C$800 for longer trips. Sens. Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy want Canada to increase its de minimis for online purchases to at least C$200 and have urged Froman to raise the issue with Prime Minister Trudeau this week. To read their letter, click here: http://1.usa.gov/1nm4kZI.
FROMAN TAKES TPP PITCH TO MINNESOTA: The Minneapolis region is the 15th largest metropolitan export area, but the state’s Democratic congressional delegation has been chilly to the White House’s push to win approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Against that backdrop, Froman is in the Land of 10,000 Lakes today to receive an award from the Economic Club of Minnesota and give a speech on TPP.
We’ll also be on the lookout for anything Froman might have say about the Iron Range region, which has been under pressure from increased steel imports. Rep. Rick Nolan, whose district covers the range, introduced a bill in December that would ban steel imports for five years. He also has urged President Obama to use his authority under Section 201 of U.S. trade law to impose emergency “safeguard” tariffs on steel imports. Both seem like a long shot, but USTR and the Commerce Department are planning a hearing in April to examine the global steel glut.
CHINESE-RAISED POULTRY ONE STEP CLOSER TO U.S. MARKET: China already had the green light from the Department of Agriculture to export U.S.-raised, Chinese-processed poultry to the United States. Now it nearly has the green light to send Chinese-raised and slaughtered poultry too.
In an audit on Friday, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said China’s food safety system for slaughtered poultry meets U.S. equivalency standards, a step toward allowing imports of poultry products from animals raised in the communist nation. The report is based on FSIS inspections of Chinese facilities that took place for more than two weeks in May 2015.
A number of steps remain before equivalency is officially established — something FSIS requires of all countries that export meat to the U.S. A public rulemaking process must be followed, and there will be limitations, USDA explained in a statement. Its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service prohibits raw poultry from entering the U.S. because certain animal diseases are present in China,so only cooked and processed poultry will be accepted.
China received USDA’s approval in 2013 to send the U.S. processed poultry raised in the U.S. and other approved countries. However, no processed poultry has been shipped from China to the U.S. since that time, the FSIS notes. Click here to read the report: http://1.usa.gov/1QXutFX.
INDIA TAKES U.S. TO TASK ON H-1B FEE INCREASES: India formally launched a dispute with the United States at the World Trade Organization on Friday in response to Washington’s move to increase fees for temporary high-skill work visas. New Delhi charges the H-1B visa fee increases contained in the December omnibus spending bill discriminate against Indian suppliers of computer services working in United States and violate U.S. commitments on the movement of people across borders to provide services. India uses more H-1B visas from the U.S. than all other countries combined.
H-1B visa rules allow U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. The omnibus requires any company with more than 50 employees to pay at least $4,000 more per H-1B visa if more than half of their staff already hold such visas. This is the second time Congress has hiked visas based on an assessment of the nationality of a company’s workforce, but the new law increased the earlier fees by two-fold and places the additional fees on visa extensions as well.
USTR expressed confidence that it can defend the fee increase. “The United States has received this request for WTO consultations from India, and we look forward to discussing our H-1B visa program with our Indian counterparts,” USTR spokesman Andrew Bates said. “We are confident that the United States’ visa program, which was recently updated on a bipartisan basis by Congress, is fully consistent with our WTO obligations.”
The United States has 10 days to respond to the request for consultations and two months to consult with India before New Delhi can ask for a panel to decide the matter. However, even a preliminary WTO ruling could be more than a year away because of a backlog of cases at the Geneva-based trade body.
POLITICO Event — A New Agenda: Canada and the U.S. in the World: As President Obama prepares to welcome Prime Minister Trudeau for a historic state visit, join POLITICO and CABC for a series of high-level conversations on North American leadership in the global economy, energy, security and the refugee crisis. Featuring: Assistant Secretary for International Affairs & Chief Diplomatic Officer Alan Bersin, Danielle Droitsch of NRDC’s Canada Project, White House Office of Energy & Climate Change’s Richard Duke, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration at the U.S. Department of State Simon Henshaw, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester and more. Tuesday, March 8, 5 p.m. — The Newseum. RSVP: http://bit.ly/1O72SAp.
The European Union has proposed downgrading annual high-level talks with Japan to an informal dialogue because of lack of progress on their bilateral trade deal, Kyodo News reports: http://bit.ly/1QwfaXI.
India’s Commerce Ministry is looking at developing a training program for young trade negotiators, The Economic Times reports: http://bit.ly/1ptqFGz.
China is concerned about the number of U.S. trade remedy cases against Chinese steel products, according to Shanghai Daily: http://bit.ly/1St2QKj.
The European Union is considering giving Beijing market economy status in exchange for a reduction in steel exports, Reuters reports: http://reut.rs/1ptqRFL.
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