Early last Tuesday, President Obama announced that, after two years of negotiations, the P5+1 negotiators reached a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Congress will now have an opportunity to review the deal, and the Obama Administration has already begun outreach to Members. President Obama also pledged to veto any legislation that would prevent the successful implementation of the deal.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Corker and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said on Thursday afternoon that they disagreed with the Obama Administration’s intent to push for a United Nations vote on the Iran deal before Congress votes this September to approve or reject it. Senator Cardin questioned Vice President Joe Biden about the matter during a closed door meeting with committee Democrats on Thursday, indicating afterwards that the Vice President’s answer was unsatisfactory. Senator Cardin says that President Obama should hold off on advocating for U.N. consideration of the deal until Congress has had its 60 days to review the bill as set out under law. The 60-day window will begin once the White House has formally submitted the Iran deal to Congress.
President Obama made a series of calls to foreign leaders this week, including to those in the Middle East, to discuss the deal.
U.S. Marines Attacked in Tennessee
Last Thursday, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Kuwait, was killed after attacking both a military recruiting center and a nearby Navy-Marine training facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing four Marines and wounding others. President Barack Obama confirmed that the FBI is leading the investigation and is working with the Department of Defense to ensure U.S. military facilities are further protected. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus condemned the attack against military personnel on home soil. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) said the United States is mourning the loss of the four Marines.
Greek Debt Crisis
Last Thursday, Greece’s Parliament approved austerity measures required as a condition of a $96 billion bailout deal, the country’s third financial rescue in five years. On Friday, German lawmakers voted in favor of the new bailout plan agreed to by European leaders early Monday morning, which was the result of contentious negotiations last weekend.
The SFRC held a hearing titled “Corruption, Global Magnitsky and Modern Slavery: A Review of Human Rights Around the World.” Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski testified that Russia and China, two of the world’s great powers, are posing serious challenges to universal human rights norms. Assistant Secretary Malinowski also argued that Russia has used its veto in the UN Security Council to oppose the enforcement of human rights norms around the world. Other panelists focused on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, saying it could be a tool to support U.S. human rights policies by imposing visa bans and asset freezes on foreign officials responsible for gross human rights violations or large-scale corruption.
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland travelled to Kyiv, where she met last Tuesday with Rada Speaker Groysman and met Wednesday morning with Yuriy Boyko of the opposition bloc faction. On Monday, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House. The President and Vice President both expressed unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and underscored the United States’ commitment to maintaining sanctions against Russia until it fully implements the Minsk agreements. The two also commended the Government of Ukraine for the steps it has taken to implement its own obligations under the Minsk agreements, including submitting draft constitutional amendments on decentralization to the Ukrainian Parliament.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken also welcomed the first-ever U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum in Washington and expressed excitement about the potential for increased U.S. business investments in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army’s top commander in Europe, stated the United States is considering providing training to Ukrainian regular army and special operations forces currently fighting separatists in eastern Ukraine. If approved, this new phase of training would begin in late November. Lt. Gen. Hodges emphasized that the training is still under review and will require approval.
According to a U.S. military statement, the United States and its allies carried out 31 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq on Wednesday.
The chief negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will meet in Maui, Hawaii, beginning on 24 July. A TPP Ministerial will follow on 28-31 July, also in Hawaii. In advance of the next round of negotiations, Australia granted market access for processed beef products from the United States and is moving toward approving U.S. fresh beef imports. This could be an effort to obtain better access to the U.S. sugar market and is likely in response to the United States’ signal last week that it is willing to open up this market to TPP countries so long as it does not undermine the U.S. sugar program.
Meanwhile, media sources report Malaysia still has not made commitments on various TPP rules, including on those related to State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), intellectual property, and government procurement. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman apparently told Malaysian lawmakers this week that the United States is ready to conclude a final TPP deal this month with almost all of the parties involved, warning that Malaysia will be “left behind” if it cannot agree to the terms.
Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership
The 10th round of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations was held in Brussels last week. These negotiations remain on a slower track in comparison with the more advanced state of the Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. A German news source released a host of secret EU documents on TTIP, including a document revealing France’s view on a U.S. proposal on state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and a European Commission outline of objectives regarding geographical indications (GIs).
Separately, a European Commission proposal that would allow national governments to restrict the use of genetically modified food and feed now faces outright rejection by the European Parliament, leaving the future of the legislation in doubt.
The House has yet to name its conferees for the Senate-House discussions to reconcile the two chambers’ respective trade facilitation (“customs”) bills but an announcement is expected soon. Both chambers of Congress appear to be committed to finalizing a customs measure before recessing for August.
Despite hopes to attach reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to an advancing highway bill, the House passed a short-term highway measure on Wednesday without doing so. However, the Senate could still add the necessary provisions to its version of the highway measure and return the bill to the House before adjourning for the August recess.
Malaysia/Trafficking in Persons Report
Nineteen bipartisan Senators wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry this week urging him to not “prematurely” upgrade Malaysia’s ranking in the overdue release of the State Department’s 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report. The Senators are responding to last week’s reports that the Administration plans to elevate Malaysia to the “Tier 2 Watch List” from its current Tier 3 ranking, saying that any such action would be unjustified and weaken the report’s credibility.
On Wednesday 15 July, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security held a hearing on the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) alleged culture of corruption, the United States’ participation in the organization, and any human rights violations stemming from the organization’s lapses in integrity. Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) stated that FIFA President Blatter’s plan to step down provides the United States and U.S. Soccer Federation with an opportunity to work together toward reforming FIFA and to choose the organization’s next leader.
Washington will likely focus on the following upcoming matters:
- 23-28 July: President Obama to travel to Kenya attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
- TBD August: AGOA Forum in Libreville, Gabon
- 15 September: 70th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opens in New York City
- 24 September: Pope Francis to address Congress and meet with President Obama
- 28 September: General debate of the UNGA begins
- 30 Nov.-11 Dec.: UN Global Climate Conference in Paris