APCAC Washington Update - November 2005

Presidential Trip to Asia
President Bush plans to visit Kyoto on November 15 and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on November 16 before attending the November 18-19 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in South Korea. After the APEC meetings, the President will travel to Beijing on November 19, followed by Mongolia on November 21.

Foreign Operations Appropriations
A House-Senate conference on November 1 approved a $20.9 billion Foreign Operations spending bill by voice vote. The measure (HR 3057) would fund $1.9 billion less than the President’s request for foreign aid and foreign policy initiatives in fiscal 2006. The conference-passed version of the bill would provide $1.7 billion for the Millennium Challenge account, which is slightly more than half the $3 billion the administration requested for the program. The House and Senate plan to take up the measure by early next week.

Export-Import Bank Funding
The Foreign Operations appropriations conference report cut the bank’s program appropriation by $25 million—from $125 million approved in the House and Senate bills to $100 million. A controversial amendment that was added to the House version of the bill that would have barred Ex-Im from financing the export of nuclear power equipment to China was removed in conference. $1 million in funding was provided to support an Inspector General, for the first time, and the conference report directed Ex-Im to appoint an Inspector General.

Bird Flu Funding
This week, Senate GOP leaders dropped their plan to add $3.95 billion in spending for bird flu pandemic preparations to the pending budget reconciliation bill. The emergency flu money is expected to be added to one of the remaining regular appropriations bills (either the Defense or Labor-HHS-Education bills). Earlier this week, President Bush unveiled a plan to combat a potential pandemic that called on Congress to fund $7.1 billion to develop and stockpile countermeasures and assist local and state agencies with disaster response.

Byrd Amendment
On October 26, the House Ways and Means Committee, while approving a budget
reconciliation measure by a vote of 22 to 17, passed a repeal of the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (CDSOA)—a five-year old measure found to violate World Trade Organization rules and commonly known as the Byrd Amendment. The committee recommendation will be forwarded to the Committee on the Budget for inclusion in reconciliation legislation to be reported by the House. U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman welcomed the move by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA). However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) was pessimistic about the chances of the Senate supporting the repeal given the steep resistance in the Senate to previous repeal efforts.

Senate Confirmations
Last week, the Senate confirmed Karan K. Bhatia and Susan C. Schwab as Deputy United States Trade Representatives. Dr Schwab will be responsible for supervising U.S. trade negotiations with Europe and the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada. Mr. Bhatia will be responsible for Asia and Africa. The two deputies join Peter F. Allgeier, the Geneva-based representative to the WTO, as USTR’s top policy advisors. The Senate also confirmed Franklin L. Lavin as Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. Before joining the U.S. Department of Commerce, Lavin served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore, from 2001-2005. During the George H. W. Bush administration, Lavin served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Asia and the Pacific.

U.S. - China Textile Talks
The U.S. and China resumed their negotiations on a bilateral textile and apparel trade agreement in Washington last weekend. The two countries are seeking an accord that would limit U.S. imports of Chinese textiles and apparel, which surged after global quotas were removed Jan. 1, 2005, pursuant to WTO rules. The agreement would set import levels, most likely through 2008, for specific categories of goods and allow specific import increases each year. The last rounds of talks held in Beijing earlier in October broke down due to disagreements over the rate of increase of annual import levels.

Japanese Import Ban on U.S. Beef
On October 31, a panel of Japanese scientists adopted a report recommending an end to a nearly two-year-long import ban on U.S. and Canadian beef. The Food Safety Commission plans to seek public comment on the recommendation starting in early November. After receiving comments on the report, in early December, the FSC is expected to formally recommend lifting the import ban on cattle aged less than 20 months from the U.S. and Canada. Under this plan, imports would be resumed by the end of 2005. On October 26, Senate Agriculture Committee members Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) unveiled legislation that would require the president to impose $3.14 billion in tariffs on a variety of Japanese products beginning Jan. 1, 2006 if Japan does not re-open its market to U.S.-produced beef by the end of the year.

Click here for APCAC Washington Update - October 2005.

AmCham Singapore

In 1917, a small group of businessmen in Singapore formed the American Association, which served the interests of American business well over the subsequent 50 years, including two world wars, until the late 1960s.