Xi, Trump to Meet in Florida; NAFTA Notice Could Hit Hill

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By Rossella Brevetti and Brian Flood

Well, it’s official. After weeks of rumors, Chinese and U.S. officials confirmed that President Xi Jinping will meet with President Donald Trump April 6-7 in Florida, where both sides will seek common ground on issues that include trade

The meeting will be the first between the two leaders since Trump took office in January, after he criticized China’s trade practices on the campaign trail. A host of issues could come up, including China’s bid for market-economy status under the World Trade Organization and the America’s $31.3 billion merchandise trade gap with China, as of January.

Chinese officials have said the country is willing to give ground to rebalance the trade relationship with the U.S., but it wants concessions in return. Those include an easing of export controls on U.S. technology, a bilateral investment treaty and a general relaxation of the trade environment for Chinese companies, a senior foreign ministry official said.

London Reps Talk Trade, Finance

But the Xi meeting isn’t the only game in town. Hot on the heels of the Brexit trigger, City of London Corporation representatives will visit Washington April 2-5 for a series of meetings with policymakers and industry officials to discuss regulatory issues affecting the transatlantic relationship, including trade deals and financial regulations. The City of London Corporation supports the financial services industry and represents its interests.

The Trump administration has expressed interest in a bilateral trade deal with the U.K. But London and Brussels need to reach a mutually acceptable deal on their relationship before much progress can be made on a U.S.-U.K. deal.

Agenda items for the visit include understanding the new administration’s priorities for regulatory policy-making in financial services both at home and internationally and gaining an insight into the new administration’s trade priorities and sentiment on the future U.K.-U.S. trading relationship. The City of London Corporation representatives will also inform U.S. policymakers and industry of the U.K.’s preparations for Brexit and highlight the interdependencies of U.K.-U.S. financial services sectors. U.S. companies have invested some $600 billion in Britain and will be affected by how things eventually shake out with Brexit.

All Eyes Turn to NAFTA

All eyes are on the House and Senate this week as the Trump administration hopes to formally notify Congress of plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Submission of the notice would kick off a 90-day consultation period with Congress. If the notice is submitted this week, the earliest talks could launch is in July. Notification also will offer a glimpse of what the administration hopes to achieve in the talks.

A draft notice surfaced March 30. It highlights objectives in 19 issue areas, beginning with expanding opportunities for U.S. goods exports to the NAFTA countries and followed by eliminating non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico.

In the meantime, former lawmakers and former U.S. officials April 3 will discuss potential winners and losers of the remake of the NAFTA trading relationship. Robert Holleyman, former deputy U.S. trade representative, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and former Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), co-chairs of the Arent Fox government relations practice, will speculate on the NAFTA redo at Arent Fox in Washington.

Unpaid Import Duties Case

The Justice Department will try to convince an appeals panel April 7 to let the government collect more money from a company that secured unpaid import duties ( United States v. American Home Assurance Co., Fed. Cir., No. 16-1769, 4/7/17 ).

The government argues that it should be able to collect a second type of interest from sureties, companies that post bonds on merchandise imports, if the merchandise’s importers fail to pay the duties they owe. In this case, American Home Assurance Co. posted a bond covering entries of crawfish meat from China, but failed to pay when the government determined that the meat was subject to antidumping duties. The government argues the lower trade court should have forced American Home Assurance to pay a type of prejudgment interest as a penalty and a deterrent to dissuade other sureties from forcing the government to take them to court to collect on their bonds.

Surety companies are watching this case closely, John Peterson told Bloomberg BNA, as a win for the government means they could be left owing even more money when importers can’t or won’t pay duties. Peterson is a partner at Neville Peterson LLP, a law firm specializing in international trade. He said the government will have a difficult time winning the appeal, however, because a lower court sided with American Home Assurance, and the appeals judges will be reluctant to find the trade court judge abused his discretion.

Ex-Im Bank Conference

Finally, the Export-Import Bank will hold its annual conference in Washington April 6-7, at a time when the future of the lending institution is in flux.

The bank bills the event as a chance for companies from around the world to meet more than 1,100 U.S. exporters and representatives of financial institutions, government agencies and the bank’s staff. But the export credit facility has been limited to issuing loans of $10 million or less for over a year, as its board has lacked the members necessary for a quorum to approve bigger deals. Some conservative Republicans have blasted the bank as corporate welfare. President Trump criticized the bank on the campaign trail, but Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said Trump told her in February he would soon nominate someone to provide the board with a quorum.

A spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told Bloomberg BNA it is “critical” that the Trump administration nominate candidates for the bank’s board “so that it can continue its mission of helping American companies sell their products to customers around the world.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Rossella Brevetti in Washington at rbrevetti@bna.com and Brian Flood in Washington at bflood@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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