Vice President Joe Biden hosted the U.S.-Caribbean and Central American Energy Summit last week, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to addressing energy security concerns in the Western Hemisphere. President Barack Obama will host the Nordic Leaders Summit in Washington on Friday to deepen U.S.-Nordic cooperation and affirm the U.S. commitment to European security, trans-Atlantic trade and the promotion of common democratic values.
Both chambers of the U.S. Congress were in recess last week, returning to Washington this week. The Senate is expected to again hotline the House-passed Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) reform measure (H.R. 4923) and this time pass it. The Senate Armed Services Committee will mark-up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Meanwhile, the political environment surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal in the United States continues to be hostile, dimming the prospects for any congressional action before the end of the year.
Nordic Leaders Summit Ahead
President Obama will host the President of Finland and the Prime Ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland at the White House for a U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit on Friday. This event follows the convening of Nordic leaders during the President’s trip to Sweden in September 2013.
Recap of Last Week’s Energy Summit
Vice President Biden hosted the U.S.-Caribbean and Central American Energy Summit in Washington last Wednesday, reaffirming shared energy security objectives. Caribbean and Central American heads of government and energy ministers, multilateral development banks, the private sector, and other international partners participated and received a report from the U.S.-Caribbean-Central American Energy Security Task Force. The White House issued a fact sheet on the Summit, available here.
The day before the Summit, Vice President Biden met with the Northern Triangle leaders, President Salvador Sánchez-Cerén of El Salvador, President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, and President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras. President Obama joined the meeting to discuss the reforms underway that will address the root causes of migration from the region to the United States.
President Obama spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last Thursday, discussing continued joint efforts to address irregular migration from Central America, among other topics. The President also noted he looks forward to seeing President Peña Nieto at the North American Leaders Summit on 29 June in Ottawa, Canada.
National Defense Authorization Act – SASC Markups
The Senate Armed Services Subcommittees are scheduled to mark-up their respective portions of the annual defense authorizing measure early this week. The full committee markup will take place behind closed doors starting Wednesday.
- On 9 May, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland is scheduled to hold a closed markup.
- On 10 May, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower is scheduled to hold a closed markup.
- On 10 May, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel is scheduled to hold an open markup.
- On 10 May, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support is scheduled to hold an open markup.
- On 10 May, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities is scheduled to hold an open markup.
- On 10 May, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces is scheduled to hold a closed markup.
TPP Developments – Prospects for Congressional Action Dim
The hostile political environment toward trade continues to dim the prospects that Congress would likely move this year on a bill to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Both leading presidential candidates – Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton – have stated their opposition to the TPP deal. Secretary Clinton said last week that she is opposed to a TPP vote in the lame-duck session of Congress later this year.
Early last week, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked draft Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiating documents, available here, revealing the U.S. negotiating stances on many chapters, including state-owned enterprises and agriculture. From Geneva, Switzerland, last week, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed confidence in the progress of the negotiations with the European Union, saying enough progress had been made in the recent TTIP round of negotiations in New York City that “final documents” could start to be assembled next month.
Financial Transparency, Money Laundering, Corruption, and Tax Evasion
Late on Thursday, the White House issued a fact sheet on steps the Administration is taking to strengthen financial transparency and combat money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion. Acknowledging that the so-called “Panama Papers” – millions of leaked documents reportedly revealing the use of anonymous offshore shell companies – has brought the issues of illicit financial activity and tax evasion into the spotlight, the new steps outlined include:
- Issuing final Treasury Department regulations on “Customer Due Diligence” that enhance transparency and protect the integrity of the financial system by requiring financial institutions to know and keep records on who actually owns the companies that use their services;
- Issuing new proposed Treasury/IRS tax rules closing a loophole allowing foreigners to hide assets or financial activity behind anonymous entities established in the United States;
- Putting forward new legislative proposals to strengthen U.S. tools to fight corruption and money laundering; and
- Calling on Congress to act on long-overdue proposals that help crack down on tax evasion.
FISA Amendments Act
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on May 10 to examine the renewal of Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, set to expire at the end of next year. The House Judiciary Committee already kicked off the FISA Amendments Act reauthorization process with a closed hearing earlier this year. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) said last week that extending the Section 702 authorities is vital to “preserving capabilities for the next president.” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) indicated that his committee will start work soon on reauthorizing Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.
Congressional Hearings This Week
- On 10 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Terrorism and Instability in Sub-Sahara Africa.”
- On 10 May, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Human Rights is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Will President Obama Prioritize the Release of Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam?”
- On 10 May, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Evaluating the Financial Risks of China.”
- On 11 May, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “FY 2017 Budget Priorities for South Asia: Recovery, Development, and Engagement.”
- On 11 May, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The U.S. Role in Helping Nigeria Confront Boko Haram and Other Threats in Northern Nigeria.”
- On 11 May, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on customs and trade enforcement. The hearing will focus on implementation of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, with Customs & Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske scheduled to testify.
- On 12 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Examining America’s Role in the World.”
- On 12 May, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Terrorism, Missiles and Corruption: The Risks of Economic Engagement with Iran.”
- On 12 May, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Following the Money: Examining Current Terrorist Financing Trends and the Threat to the Homeland.”
- On 17 May, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Council is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Ten Years Later: The Status of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
- On 24& 25 May, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold hearings titled, “Understanding the Role of Sanctions Under the Iran Deal.” The Obama Administration’s perspectives will be the focus of the second day’s hearing.
Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:
- 13 May: President Obama hosts the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit
- 18 May: Due date for release of the USITC report on the TPP deal
- 21-25 May: President Obama travels to Vietnam and Laos
- 26-27 May: G-7 Summit in Ise-Shima, Japan
- 29 June: North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, Canada.
- 8-9 July: NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland