Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted the Nordic Leaders Summit in Washington, with the Leaders affirming shared fundamental values and areas of collaboration, while also spotlighting Russia’s military activities in the Baltic Sea region and confirming multilateral sanctions imposed on Russia will remain in place. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the Global Anti-Corruption Summit in London last week, while U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman was in Rwanda for the World Economic Forum Africa. Looking ahead, President Obama is preparing for what will be his 10th trip to Asia, with scheduled stops in Vietnam, Laos, and Japan.
The Senate unanimously passed reform legislation last week related to the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process late Tuesday, sending the bill to President Obama to sign into law. The Senate Finance Committee examined the U.S. trade enforcement policy during a hearing with the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Congress expects a report from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal this week.
House Members submitted over 350 amendments ahead of this week’s floor debate of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate Armed Services Committee completed its subcommittee and full committee NDAA markup last week, with the hope of finishing floor debate before the end of the month. Both chambers of Congress also made progress on legislative proposals to address the spread of Zika to the United States, continuing work on their respective proposals this week.
Nordic Leaders Summit
In a joint statement released after their meeting on Friday, the leaders of the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden pledged to deepen cooperation on international issues related to security and defense; migration and refugees; climate, energy and the Arctic; and economic growth and global development. The Leaders stressed the importance of upholding the European security order and the fundamental principles of international law. The statement also spotlights Russia’s increased “provocative” military actions in the Baltic Sea region and affirms:
“Sanctions against Russia for its actions in eastern Ukraine cannot be lifted until Russia fully implements its Minsk commitments. Our Crimea-related sanctions are also to remain in force until Russia returns this territory to Ukrainian control.”
The Leaders further noted support for the EU’s goal of increased diversification of supply sources and routes, increased indigenous and sustainable production, greater levels of interconnection, and enhanced energy efficiency. Norway, Iceland, and the United States affirmed their commitment to join the Paris Agreement this year. The Leaders also declared their commitment to developing cleaner energy systems, renewable energy (including renewable fuels), increased energy efficiency, and technologies for cleaner energy production. The White House released a fact sheet further detailing collaboration on the climate change and the Arctic Circle.
The United States and the Nordic countries will also collaborate on promoting sustainable, reliable, affordable, and secure modern energy for all, including in sub-Saharan Africa. They will also work to facilitate private sector efforts to eliminate deforestation from the production of commodities such as palm oil, pulp and paper, cattle, and soy. The United States and Norway further announced they will sign a joint statement to reinforce their intention to enhance cooperation on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).
With respect to trade, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to completing the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations yet this year, noting Denmark, Finland, and Sweden are strong supporters of the TTIP.
Global Anti-Corruption Summit
Secretary of State John Kerry was in London last week for the Anti-Corruption Summit and to reaffirm the Administration’s commitment to combating corruption. He observed:
“Corruption writ large is as much of an enemy, because it destroys nation-states, as some of the extremists we’re fighting or some of the other challenges that we have faced.”
The United Kingdom and the United States announced the creation of the Global Forum for Asset Recovery at the Summit. The co-hosted Forum will bring together governments and law enforcement agencies next year in the United States to work collaboratively on major asset recovery cases in order to return assets for the benefit of the people harmed by corruption. The State Department released a fact sheet detailing the United States’ global and domestic anti-corruption initiatives, available here.
Secretary of State’s Travel
Secretary departed last Friday for a trip that has stops in Saudi Arabia, Austria, Belgium, Burma, and Vietnam. His first stop will be in Jeddah, where he will have bilateral meetings with Saudi Government officials. In Vienna, Austria, he will co-host a ministerial meeting on Libya with the Italian Foreign Minister. He will also co-host the ministerial meeting of the International Syria Support Group, which will be designed to reaffirm the cessation of hostilities. Together with Russia and France, the Secretary will also co-host a meeting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In Brussels, Belgium (18-21 May), Secretary Kerry will attend the NATO Foreign Ministerial, which will be really focused on preparations for the Warsaw NATO Summit Heads of State and Government in July. On 22 May, he travels to Burma to meet with key leaders there to signal U.S. support for the new democratically elected civilian-led government. In Vietnam next, Secretary Kerry will accompany President Obama to Hanoi and to Ho Chi Minh City.
TPP Developments – USITC Report Due This Week
The USITC is expected to submit its report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal to Congress this week. Congressional Research Services (CRS) submitted a 91-page report to Congress on the agreement ahead of the USITC’s report, available here.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said last week that he remains unsatisfied with the Administration’s inflexibility on his top concern of ensuring longer data protection for biologics. He said that the prospects for Congress taking up a TPP implementing bill in the lame-duck session were 50/50.
National Defense Authorization Act – SASC Completes Markup; House Floor Debate Ahead
The Senate Armed Services Subcommittees and the full Committee completed markups of their chamber’s NDAA measure last week, with reports reflecting the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) took a different approach on funding the Pentagon than the House did in its NDAA bill. SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) expressed his goal is to bring the NDAA bill to the Senate floor for debate before the Memorial Day holiday (30 May).
Over 350 amendments were filed with the House Rules Committee ahead of this week’s House floor debate of the chamber’s NDAA measure. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet later today to review the amendments and decide which are germane.
Ambassador Froman’s trip to Rwanda last week for the World Economic Forum came ahead of a deadline set by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to submit to Congress a list of those sub-Saharan African countries that have expressed interest in negotiating a free-trade agreement with the United States. USTR must also report to Congress on the overall trade and investment relationship between the United States and sub-Saharan Africa by 29 June.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing last week to examine terrorism and instability in Sub-Saharan Africa. Boko Haram was noted to be one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world. Members also raised concerns about democracy promotion on the continent and ensuring human rights are respected.
Senate Hearing on Trade Enforcement
On 11 May, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on customs and trade enforcement, focusing on implementation of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (“Customs bill;” H.R. 644). Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske testified that his agency will take a tougher stance on trade enforcement. He testified the CBP will issue an interim final regulation for implementing the duty-evasion provisions within the statutory deadline of 180 days (late August), as mandated by the Customs bill. Commissioner Kerlikowske also fielded questions related to the excess global steel glut, affirming that CBP is working with certain countries to address duty evasion with respect to steel shipments.
Zika Funding – U.S. Prepares; Action in Both Chambers
The United States is mobilizing against the expected spread of the Zika virus to the homeland. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) plans to introduce a Zika funding proposal – not as emergency funding – which reportedly accounts for “less than a billion” in federal funds, including offsets. The House also is expected to take up H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act, this week. The Senate is set to consider a $1.1 billion emergency Zika funding package this week (as emergency funding, it does not require offsets). Neither chamber is considering a proposal at the Administration’s requested funding level of $1.9 billion.
Congressional Hearings This Week
- Tuesday, May 17: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Defense Appropriations Bill.
- Tuesday, May 17: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled “War in Syria: Next Steps to Mitigate the Crisis.”
- Tuesday May 17: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a hearing titled “U.S. Department of State Counterterrorism Bureau: FY 2017 Budget.”
- Tuesday, May 17: The Tom Lantos Human Rights Council will hold a hearing titled “Ten Years Later: The Status of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”
- Wednesday, May 18: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa will hold a hearing titled “Democracy Support Strategies in Africa.”
- Wednesday, May 18: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will mark up several measures, including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (S. 284) and the Global Food Security Act of 2016 (S. 1252).
- Thursday, May 19: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to review S.___, which would extend certain privileges and immunities to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:
- 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