WHAT WE’RE WATCHING: A New Standard of “Influence?”
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act (H.R. 22), which would prohibit the Department of Energy (DOE) from selling petroleum products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to any entity that is “under the ownership, control, or influence of the Chinese Communist Party.”
- Why it matters: The bill does not direct DOE on how to define “influence,” leaving open what exactly would fall under that term, as opposed to clearer concepts like “ownership” or “control.” Without guidance from Congress, DOE could end up with an unwieldly definition. Industry stakeholder participation in any rulemaking to follow will be critical to ensuring reasonable application of the concept, as Congress may apply this term in other legislation aimed at addressing Chinese competition over the coming months.
U.S.-China Tensions Thaw in Switzerland
This week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. During the meeting, they discussed the importance of enhancing U.S.-China communications around macroeconomic and financial issues, as well as sustainable development and clean energy transitions. Readouts and remarks from both sides emphasized a positive tone and noted efforts to work together.
- What’s next: Following the nearly three-hour meeting, officials announced a group of U.S. Treasury staff will visit China in February to prepare for a coming visit by U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen to the country.
Weekly Roundup – Congressional Quotables
- House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) in a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo requesting documents linked to the enforcement of export controls on sensitive technologies: “The United States needs a whole-of-government approach to protect sensitive and military-useful technology from foreign adversaries, such as the People’s Republic of China.”
- House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) in a letter to the University of Pennsylvania following the discovery of classified Obama-Biden Administration documents at the Penn Biden Center: “The American people deserve to know whether the Chinese Communist Party, through Chinese companies, influenced potential Biden Administration policies with large, anonymous donations to UPenn and the Penn Biden Center.”
- Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) following the release of the Americas Trade and Investment (Americas) Act to establish a regional trade, investment, and people-to-people partnership of countries in the Western Hemisphere: “The draft bill counters China’s growing control over global manufacturing and geopolitics by uniting democracies in our hemisphere through fair trade and shared values.”
- Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) endorsing Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) for the open Indiana Senate seat in 2024: “We need Jim in the Senate to build a strong military that will defend the homeland and stand up to our adversaries like Communist China.”
- Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) following his selection as chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC): The panel will “aggressively counter the transnational repression of Xi Jinping’s brutal dictatorship and ramp up scrutiny of those who are aiding and abetting the Communist regime.”