Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
With the P5+1 interim agreement in effect (as of Monday, January 20), P5+1 negotiators are expected to resume talks with Iran next month. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the following statement on last Monday’s implementation of the interim nuclear deal:
“The U.S. now begins suspending its sanctions against Iran in return for limited nuclear concessions. While the positive economic impact on Iran will go beyond this relief, as foreign investors are rushing in, our leverage over Iran shrinks. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program continues.”
Chairman Royce is the author of the bipartisan Nuclear Iran Prevention Act (H.R. 850), which passed the House in July and is currently pending in the Senate. This Tuesday, January 28, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and on the Middle East and North Africa will convene a joint hearing on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.
State of the Union Address
This Tuesday, January 28, President Barack Obama will outline his broad agenda for 2014 in his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. The President is expected to again focus on domestic themes, such as the U.S. economy, infrastructure improvements and the middle class.
U.S. and EU trade negotiators are set to meet in Washington on February 17 to review progress to-date on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and to lay out a plan for future discussions. In a 22 January speech delivered in Germany, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht defended the TTIP negotiations against claims that a final deal will weaken EU regulatory protections and also elaborated on a decision announced earlier in the week to hold a three-month consultation period on the EU’s approach to investment protection.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week – including participating in a session with Western oil companies. On the margins of the WEF, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Quartet Representative Tony Blair; and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. Last Friday at the WEF, the United States, the EU, China and several other countries announced the launch of a new initiative to eliminate tariffs on environmental goods such as solar water heaters, wind turbines, and catalytic converters. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said, “This new effort will build on the United States’ work with Asia-Pacific partners to make renewable and clean energy technologies cheaper and more accessible for everyone.”
Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler indicated last week that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries are likely to hold their next ministerial meeting in February. On the margins of the WEF, Ambassador Froman met with ministers from TPP countries.
Secretary Kerry also attended the Geneva II conference in Montreaux, Switzerland last week. The Secretary said the path to peace had to involve the world community and could not include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the conference discussions were tense but said this was a “first, small step” toward resolving the crisis in Syria. On the margins of the Geneva II conference, Secretary Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. While initially invited, Iran was not allowed to participate in the conference.
Last Tuesday, 21 January, President Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss Syria, Iran, bilateral trade, and advancing security for the Sochi Olympics. With increased concerns of a possible terrorist attack, the United States has offered to assist the Russians with security at the Olympics.
On January 21, the White House announced the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will be held on August 5-6 in Washington. Invitations were sent to 47 African heads of state and the Chair of the African Union. The Summit will build on the progress made since the President’s trip to Africa last summer and advance the Administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa. Last Tuesday, 21 January, Secretary Kerry welcomed the selection of Catherine Samba-Panza as the new transitional president of the Central African Republic. On January 23, the White House welcomed the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement in South Sudan.
On January 23, Vice President Joe Biden called Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and urged an immediate de-escalation in the standoff between protestors and security forces in Kyiv.
While statutorily due the first Monday of February, President Obama is expected to release his budget request for FY 2015 on March 4. The delay is due in large part to the late work on FY 2014 appropriations that culminated in an Omnibus bill (H.R. 3547) that was passed by Congress before the recess.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Monday, January 27: The House Foreign Affairs Global Human Rights Subcommittee will hold a hearing titled, “Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Preparations: Preventing International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events.”
- Tuesday, January 28: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for the following individuals: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) to be the U.S. Ambassador to China; Arnold Chacon to be Director General of the Foreign Service; and Daniel Bennett Smith to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.
- Tuesday, January 28: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Oversight and Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.”
- Tuesday, January 28: The Senate Energy & Natural Resource Committee will hold a hearing on S. 1600, The Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013.
- Tuesday, January 28: The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and Seapower and Projection Forces will hold a joint hearing on the People’s Republic of China’s Counterspace Program and the Implications for U.S. National Security.
- Tuesday, January 28: The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Joint Hearing on the People’s Republic of China’s Counterspace Program and the Implications for U.S. National Security.”
- Tuesday, January 28: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and on the Middle East and North Africa will convene a joint hearing on the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.
- Thursday, January 30: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Section 123: Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreements.”
- Thursday, January 30: The Senate Energy & Natural Resource Committee will hold a hearing titled, “U.S. Crude Oil Exports: Opportunities and Challenges.”