As a result of the partial government shutdown which began on December 22, 2018, about 800,000 federal employees are currently on furlough or working without pay.  Nine federal departments have been shutdown:  Department of Commerce; Department of Treasury; Department of Agriculture; Homeland Security Department; Department of the Interior; Deparment of Justice; Department of State; Department

Last Friday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) formally launched an investigation into the economic benefits of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”) that is to replace NAFTA.

Under the Trade Promotion Authority (“TPA”) law, known as the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, the ITC must prepare a report that assesses the likely impact of the Agreement on the U.S. economy as a whole and on specific industry sectors, as well as the interests of U.S. consumers.  This report, which will be made public, is due to the President and Congress no more than 105 days after the President signs the agreement. The TPA requires the President to wait 90 days from the date of the notification before signing the USMCA.  President Trump notified Congress of his intent to enter into the new trade agreement on August 31, 2018.  Therefore, the earliest the President may sign the agreement is November 30, 2018.

Congress is expected to wait until the ITC report is issued before voting on the new agreement.  In fact, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell recently told Bloomberg in an interview that the vote on USMCA will be a “next-year issue.”

If Congress does not pass the TPA, the President has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA. 
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On Monday, President Trump and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea signed a revised U.S.-Korea (known as “KORUS”) free trade agreement on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly meeting this week in New York.  In April 2017, President Trump indicated that he wanted to either renegotiate or terminate the then-five year old agreement.  Since then, the parties have engaged in trade talks, under the auspices of the existing KORUS review procedures and otherwise, to update key provisions.  Early on, the United States appeared to be primarily focused on changes to help reduce the United States’ bilateral trade deficit.  In March 2018, the Office of the United States Trade Representative issued a summary of the agreed-upon outcomes of the negotiations, and released the draft text earlier this month, with emphasis on how the revisions will “rebalanc{e} our trade” and “reduce the trade deficit.”

The changes to KORUS focus on the auto sector, customs procedures, and pharmaceutical reimbursement.  With respect to autos, the largest change is a 20-year extended phase-out period for the current 25% U.S. tariff on imports of light trucks from Korea.  That tariff will now expire in 2041, instead of 2021, which, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission, will delay the anticipated increase of 59,000 Korean truck imports.  Korea has also agreed to increasing the quota of U.S.-origin autos that meet U.S. safety standards (but not Korean safety standard) from 25,000 to 50,000 per manufacturer, per year.  Korea further agreed to recognizing U.S. standards for auto parts exports necessary to service U.S. vehicles in Korea and a harmonized testing system for emissions standards.  With respect to improving customs procedures, Korea will address onerous and costly customs verification procedures for U.S. exports, which have been
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On April 13, 2018, the Treasury Department released its biannual report to Congress on the Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States, which declined to formally label China a currency manipulator under the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (the “1988 Act”).

This is the third such report issued since President Trump took office.  Like the prior Trump Administration foreign exchange policy reports (April 2017 and October 2017), the latest report also concluded that China’s bilateral trade surplus, material current account surprise, and intervention in the foreign exchange market, together, do not require “enhanced analysis” and “enhanced bilateral engagement” under the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (the “2015 Act”).

The latest report, however, continues to place China on Treasury’s foreign exchange “Monitoring List” under the 2015 Act.  The report lists China alongside Japan, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, and India as “major trading partners that merit close attention to their currency practices and macroeconomic policies.”  According to the report,
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According to Bloomberg, the Trump administration is considering using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to block Chinese investments in industries or technologies “deemed important” to the U.S.  (This statute has been used primarily to authorize economic sanctions and embargoes administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control).  To utilize IEEPA, the President

Last Friday, the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, as part of its World Trade Monitor, reported that global trade flows – the volume of export and imports of goods – was 4.5% higher in 2017 than in 2016.  This is an important finding because it marks the biggest rate of year-in-year expansion since the world began recovering from the global financial crisis, exceeding expectations for the year.  According to the CPB World Trade Monitor, global trade flows grew 24% between January 2010 and December 2017.

Experts, however, are cautiously optimistic about the news and what it could mean for 2018.  Last year, significant uncertainties about critical aspects of the global economy made it difficult to predict the track of trade growth.  The WTO cited unpredictability with respect to government action on monetary, fiscal, and trade policy, and whether trade would be restricted in favor of attempts to address domestic wage stagnation and unemployment. 
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The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis has released the 2016 figures in their data series on foreign direct investment in U.S. Businesses. This series allows businesses, researchers, and policy makers to gain insights into recent trends in foreign investment. Investments and the employment generated, are broken down by country of origin, industry type, and location of businesses in which the investments were made.  The data are further broken down by whether the investment involves acquisition, establishment, or expansion of a business.
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