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17 May 2021 Monday

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
International Policy Update
May 14, 2021
Global Forum on Economic Recovery to Feature Yellen, Gates, Slavitt
Tai Testifies on Trade Agenda
Senate Commerce Amends, Approves Endless Frontier Act
USTR, AFL-CIO Take Action under USMCA Labor Mechanisms
Chamber Joins Letter to White House on Need for U.S. Leadership in Global Vaccinations
GE’s Mabunda Named Chair of U.S.-South Africa Business Council
From the Home Front:
U.S. Chamber Welcomes Executive Order on Cybersecurity, Reiterates Importance of Public-Private Partnerships in Enhancing Resilience
U.S. Chamber Calls for Additional Actions to Relieve Fuel Supply Disruption
The Clock is Ticking on the Steel and Aluminum Tariffs
A More Influential New Zealand Emerges
Global Forum on Economic Recovery to Feature Yellen, Gates, Slavitt
With the Global Forum on Economic Recovery set for May 18-19, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has released the full lineup of speakers. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Senior Advisor to the White House COVID Response Team Andy Slavitt, Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates and heads of state or government from Singapore, Colombia, and Kenya will provide keynote remarks and join over a dozen C-Suite leaders from top U.S. and global businesses for discussions on pandemic crisis management, unleashing the digital economy, managing the China conundrum and more.
To view the full list of speakers and register for the event, please click here.
Tai Testifies on Trade Agenda
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on May 12 and 13 presented the Biden administration’s trade agenda in the traditional annual hearings before the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees. In her opening remarks, she reiterated the administration’s commitment to a worker-centered trade policy as well as efforts to use trade policy to promote racial equity and protect the environment. Ambassador Tai faced questions from committee members on issues ranging from competition with China, calls to renew the Generalized System of Preferences and the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, digital trade efforts, agriculture trade barriers, and many others, but several issues stood out:
  • TRIPS waiver: Tai was repeatedly questioned on the administration’s decision to support negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for a TRIPS waiver for Covid-19 vaccines, and she received a great deal of opposition from Republican members on both committees. Tai was criticized for a lack of consultation with Congress preceding the announcement, including by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). She asserted that she has the authority to negotiate at the WTO as an active member but committed to keeping Congress fully informed on the status of the talks at the WTO. When responding to concerns over intellectually property theft and disincentivizing innovation, Tai framed the issue around the goal of promoting vaccine equity globally: “I think this is less about stealing technology. It is more about the impact of our trade policies, on intellectual property protections, on regular people. Right now, there is nothing more directly impactful on the hope of regular… than their ability to get a vaccine.” Tai did not respond directly to concerns about how the waiver could divert critical inputs away from approved vaccine makers to untested startups, potentially curtailing the surge in vaccine production now underway.
  • Trade toolbox: Under a line of questioning from Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tai suggested that trade tools – such as Section 232 – need to be updated for the 21st century and to allow better coordination with allies: “We do need new tools, in my opinion, and I think that this is an area where the administration, and this committee and Congress can really make strides towards strengthening our trade enforcement, our leveling of the playing field… What I would propose is that we need 2021 tools for addressing the 2021 challenges we have, rather than relying on 1962 tools and retrofitting them for the challenges we have now.” No further details were forthcoming. Wyden mentioned that he hears from senators nearly every day on the issue of Section 232 tariffs and the need to modernize outdated trade laws. Tai gave a similar response to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) when asked about what USTR needs to achieve the objectives of President Biden’s trade policy.
  • Review of trade policy toward China: Tai broke no news on the China front. She affirmed that her agency is setting up its top to bottom review of U.S. policies toward China, and she stated that Section 301 tariffs and exclusion processes will be a critical part of that review. She said she plans to “solicit robust feedback” from stakeholders so that any exclusions will “be strategic and have a clear objective.” Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) referenced the bipartisan letter she organized, signed by more than 100 House lawmakers, which requested USTR restart the tariff exclusion process. Walorski said she has heard of many instances in which companies with U.S. operations are disadvantaged by the tariffs. When pressed on a timeline for extending Section 301 exclusions or the China review generally, Tai said “earlier is better… December is way too late.”
  • UK and Kenya FTAs: “Trade is not on the backburner,” said Tai following a question from Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) on the status of UK and Kenya negotiations, though she made no commitment on future progress nor a timeline for continued negotiations with either country. She said that USTR was engaged in a review on the progress of each set of negotiations and how that progress fits with the Biden administration’s domestic investment and trade goals. Tai also noted that many critical areas of negotiation with the UK remain incomplete: “There have been five rounds, but very critical issue areas are still open in terms of those negotiations. So there’s still quite a road to go there.” She also shared her view that the United States should re-examine the objectives of the potential agreement following the UK’s official exit from the European Union.
  • Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): Tai also received questions regarding TPA, which formally expires July 1. She expressed a desire “in having a TPA that is robustly supported in a bipartisan, bicameral way here in Congress,” citing USMCA as a model. She provided no clear timeline when pressed by House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX): “If I say this year, is there any chance you could just give us a big wink?” Tai’s response: “Let’s do the work. Let’s do the thinking.”
To view a replay of proceedings in the Senate Finance Committee, please click here.
To view a replay of proceedings in the House Ways and Means Committee, please click here.
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President of International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Senate Commerce Amends, Approves Endless Frontier Act
On May 12, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced out of committee the Endless Frontier Act, sponsored by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN), on a 24-4 vote. The committee accepted a large number of amendments to the bill, including one that shifted the funding structure of the $100 billion originally allocated to a new Technology Directorate to be housed in the National Science Foundation, leaving the Technology Directorate with only $15-17 billion in funding over 5 years; in the amended bill, the remainder would go toward already-established programs at the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy facilities around the country. Approval of the amendment irked some key backers, with unclear consequences. Another amendment, put forth by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), will expand domestic production of mature semiconductors by $2 billion, acting as a new requirement for the CHIPS for America Act, which is expected to receive funding in the broader China-focused package.
Majority Leader Schumer has indicated his intention to bring the bill to the floor next week, and the Senate is scheduled to begin procedural voting to advance it on Monday at 5:30 p.m. Committees continue to work on legislation relating to competition with China that may be packaged with the Endless Frontier Act, including legislation from the Senate Banking Committee, which released a summary of an agreement between Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA).
The Chamber previously welcomed introduction of the bill and expressed general support for its goal of bolstering U.S. leadership in scientific and technological innovation through increased investments in the discovery, creation, and commercialization of the future’s technology fields. The Chamber is engaging with Senate offices as a number of moving pieces—which range from good or bad to indifferent in the Chamber’s view—are considered for inclusion.
For further information, please contact Senior Director for International Policy Kris Denzel (kdenzel@uschamber.com).
USTR, AFL-CIO Take Action under USMCA Labor Mechanisms
The USMCA’s Rapid Response Labor Mechanism received its first use this week after USTR announced it would self-initiate a request to Mexico to review allegations of workers rights’ violations at a General Motors facility, which the Mexican government has accepted and agreed to review. Chairman Wyden and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who spearheaded efforts to include this mechanism in the agreement, lauded USTR’s action during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President’s Trade Agenda.
Also this week, the AFL-CIO filed the first labor rights petition against Mexico under USMCA. The union federation alleges that an auto parts company in Tamaulipas has denied workers the right to independent representation. The Department of Labor’s Office of Trade and Labor Affairs has 30 days to review the claim and determine whether to bring the case to the Mexican government for further review.
The Chamber last fall weighed in with business views on USTR’s labor petition guidance to ensure due process for industry in connection with the novel mechanism. The Chamber’s comments expressed concern that the procedures for receipt and review of petitions may “encourage specious and unfounded allegations in furtherance of grievances against private parties,” and advocated for the “inclusion of additional safeguards to ensure that such petitions are objective and not subject to abuse or use for ulterior motives by the filing person.”
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President of International Policy John Murphy (jmurphy@uschamber.com).
Chamber Joins Letter to White House on Need for U.S. Leadership in Global Vaccinations
On May 11, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark and other business and policy leaders sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging his administration to demonstrate decisive U.S. leadership in mobilizing efforts to boost vaccinations around the world while warning against pursuing a Covid-19 intellectual property waiver at the WTO. Other signatories included Maurice R. Greenberg, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former USTR Carla Hills, BIO CEO Michelle McMurray-Heath, and the heads of CSIS, PIIE, and the Wilson Center. The letter reads in part:
“The U.S. must act now to leverage rapidly increasing U.S. domestic vaccine production, export ever-larger volumes of our surplus supplies, and go to work on the massive technical and logistical challenges to vaccine development on a global scale. U.S. support for the Intellectual Property waiver being promoted by the WTO would make little difference and could do harm. It does not consider the proper materials, equipment, training, and infrastructure necessary to manufacture the vaccine safely and successfully (in addition to being a potential disincentive for future innovation).”
The Chamber continues to voice its opposition to the waiver, stating that the “move will undermine the global fight against COVID.”
For further information, please contact Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber Global Innovation Policy Center Patrick Kilbride (pkilbride@uschamber.com).
GE’s Mabunda Named Chair of U.S.-South Africa Business Council
The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-South Africa Business Council (US-SABC) named Nyimpini Mabunda, Chief Executive Officer of Southern Africa for General Electric (GE), as its new chair. Scott Eisner, U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President and President of the U.S.-Africa Business Center stated the following upon the announcement:
“We are honored to have the leadership of Nyimpini Mabunda as our Council Board Chair at the helm of a company like GE whose investment in South Africa typifies the ways in which the U.S. business community supports South Africa’s economic growth priorities.”
“As the United States and South Africa are focused on boosting economic recovery and expanding the bilateral relationship, the private sector is an essential partner in generating sustainable and inclusive growth efforts and the U.S.-South Africa Business Council is poised to play a critical role in supporting these priorities.”
For further information, please contact U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President for Africa and President of the U.S.-Africa Business Center Scott Eisner (seisner@uschamber.com).
From the Home Front
U.S. Chamber Welcomes Executive Order on Cybersecurity, Reiterates Importance of Public-Private Partnerships in Enhancing Resilience
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President for Cyber, Intelligence, and Supply Chain Security Policy Christopher D. Roberti issued the following statement on May 12 regarding President Biden’s executive order on cybersecurity:
“Recent cyberattacks, impacting both public and private entities, underscore the need for coordinated action by the Biden Administration and the private sector. We need to enhance security, drive international collaboration, and hold malicious cyber actors accountable when they violate domestic and international laws.
“Public-private partnerships are essential to enhance cybersecurity and ensure that systems are updated and configured to deal with current threats. The Chamber looks forward to working with the Biden Administration, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of Commerce, and law enforcement partners to improve incident response policies, programs, and procedures to enhance our nation’s resilience.
“To continue this important work, Congress will need to provide federal agencies and law enforcement with resources to confront our adversaries in cyberspace and bring them to justice. Strategy without resources is just rhetoric.”
U.S. Chamber Calls for Additional Actions to Relieve Fuel Supply Disruption
On May 11, President of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute Marty Durbin issued the following statement regarding the East Coast fuel supply disruption:
“We applaud the administration for recognizing the potential impacts the fuel supply disruption may have on the economy and national security by issuing emergency fuel waivers and a temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers. We urge the administration to consider additional preemptive actions to insulate against potentially more severe impacts, including issuance of Jones Act Waivers.”
by John Murphy, Above the Fold, U.S. Chamber (May 13)
by Shannon Hayden, Above the Fold, U.S. Chamber (May 10)

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