Last week, U.S. Businessman Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 8 November, in what many are describing as an upset.  President-Elect Trump’s transition team is now tasked with vetting possible Cabinet appointees and lower-level appointees, receiving briefings from the Obama Administration on the issues facing the United States, and crafting policy proposals that take into consideration some of his campaign promises.

President Barack Obama met with President-Elect Trump at the White House on 10 November to discuss the transition and likely key foreign policy developments, such as the Iran nuclear deal, Syria, ISIL and Russia. It is premature to fully understand what President-Elect Trump’s trade and foreign policy will be, especially given his previously expressed protectionist and isolationist proclivities.  He will be sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States on 20 January.

This week, President Obama will travel to Greece, Germany and Peru in what is likely his last official trip overseas.  Despite the fact that congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal is stalled, President Obama is expected to talk to his Asia-Pacific counterparts about the importance of U.S. engagement in the region.

The 114th U.S. Congress returns to Washington this week for the start of the so-called “lame-duck” session. They will quickly recess after one week in Washington for a week to observe the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (week of 21 November).  The legislative agenda in the lame-duck session is expected to include reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA); advancing a reconciled Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA); funding the U.S. Federal Government beyond 9 December; and possibly addressing concerns related to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also travelling this week to Muscat, Oman (14 November), where he will meet with His Royal Highness Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said and Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi to discuss Yemen and efforts to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict there. Secretary Kerry will next travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (15 November), to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss challenges facing the region.

Iran – Sanction Reauthorization Ahead

The House is expected to consider legislation to reauthorize the expiring ISA, which may occur as soon as this week. During the campaign, President-Elect Trump explicitly denounced the nuclear deal with Iran as the “worst-ever negotiated” and said he was eager to do away with it.  With both chambers of the 115th Congress in Republican control, he may be able to reverse the deal next year.

  • On Tuesday, 15 November, the House is scheduled to consider the Iran Sanctions Extension Act, under suspension of the rules.

Syria – Fight Against ISIL

Syrian government troops and their allies (Russia and Iran) reportedly advanced on Friday in a district of western Aleppo captured last month by Syrian rebel groups. In an interview that aired on 11 November, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter advised against President-Elect Trump’s previous campaign statements that he would seek a more cooperative relationship with Russia, saying “[Russia is] not doing what we need to do and think needs to be done [in Syria].”  He further said the Russians, who are aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, are fueling “the fires of the Syrians civil war. So the Russians have been completely backwards there, in what they’ve been doing.  So we have not been able to, and I have not been in favor, and am not recommending to the president that we associate ourselves with or work with the Russians until they start doing the right thing.”

  • On Tuesday, 15 November, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 5732, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules.

JCCT Meeting Ahead

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will host in Washington the 27th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) next week in Washington.  Vice Premier of the State Council Wang Yang will lead the Chinese delegation.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is also expected to join the JCCT meeting to address bilateral agricultural trade issues.  President-Elect Trump made it clear during the campaign that China’s perceived unfair trade practices will be addressed in his Administration.

TPP – No-Go

President-Elect Trump remains opposed to the deal in its current form and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed serious reservations with terms in the final Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal that have not yet been addressed by the Obama Administration. Ongoing concerns with the TPP deal include longer intellectual property protections for biologic drugs and concerns with the tobacco industry’s carve-out from the deal’s investor-state dispute resolution mechanism. If the agreement is not approved by Congress during the lame duck session – a long-shot, given the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) requirements and recent statements by Republican congressional leaders – the Trump Administration will have to decide whether to engage TPP member states for formal assurances or walk away from the agreement altogether, which surrogates have said is most likely.

TTIP – On Hold

With the uncertainty surrounding President-Elect Trump’s trade priorities, European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations on 11 November:

“For quite some time TTIP will be in the freezer. What happens when it’s defrosted, I think we’ll have to wait and see.”

Consequently, the EU and United States are not expecting to schedule any more formal negotiating rounds this year.

Colombia – Revised Agreement Reached

On 12 November, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Secretary Kerry issued statements congratulating the Government of Colombia on reaching a revised peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). NSA Rice stated:

“We intend to continue the United States’ bipartisan support to Colombia through the Peace Colombia framework to assist implementation of the peace accord, as well as the Global Demining Initiative for Colombia, which the United States co-sponsors with the Kingdom of Norway.”

Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Thursday, 17 November, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 14-21 November: President Obama travels to Greece, Germany and Peru
  • 19-20 November: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Peru
  • 21-23 November: U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Washington
  • 27 Nov. – 1 Dec.: 18th round of Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) negotiations
  • 3-4 December: Ministerial meeting to conclude EGA agreement
  • 12 December: Miscellaneous Tariff Bill petitions due to the U.S. International Trade Commission
  • 3 January: 115th Congress convenes
  • 20 January: Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America