Washington Insider - Monday

Congressional Fight Continues to Shut Government

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

WTO Panel Mostly Sides with US in China Poultry Dispute

A WTO compliance panel agreed with U.S. allegations that China has failed to comply with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that found antidumping and countervailing duties were levied on U.S. broiler products in a manner inconsistent with China's WTO obligations.

Specifically, the panel said China's Ministry of Commerce's redetermination of previous duty orders – which resulted in the imposition more duties – continued to violate provisions of WTO's Anti-Dumping Agreement (ADA) and the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement). A WTO dispute panel issued an August 2013 ruling which found that China's 2010 decision to impose antidumping and countervailing duties on imported broiler products from the United States ran counter to WTO rules.

NAFTA Gains as Negotiations Poised To Resume In Montreal

General agreement on about 40% of the topics being negotiated in the NAFTA 2.0 talks is in place, according to Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Geronimo Gutierrez. "We have consensus on around 40% of the issues already," Gutierrez told Bloomberg Television. And Mexico may be willing to accept a higher minimum regional content level than the current 62.5%, he noted, "but on rules of origin we need to be very careful to make sure they’re looked at almost on a product-by-product basis."

He also reiterated that Mexico will walk away from the negotiating table if President Donald Trump were to trigger the NAFTA exit process for the U.S. Indications are the meeting of the three top negotiators – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo – will now take place January 29, a day later than initially expected.

Washington Insider: Congressional Fight Continues to Shut Government

Well, there isn’t really any news this beginning of the week, except that the government is closed, nobody knows what to do next and there is little or no headway on a compromise to break the impasse.

Politico says both sides are working hard on more cutting insults and are deeply dug in, suggesting that “they are prepared for a longer impasse. While some observers see hints of possible compromise, it seems clear that “the respective party leaders believe the other had badly misjudged the mood of the country,” Politico says.

By Sunday afternoon, the group says that Republican leaders are now contemplating a “stopgap funding measure that runs through Feb. 8, but top Democrats still oppose that approach without a commitment to ensure an immigration deal that can get through both the House and the Senate.”

Democrats objected to the GOP's request to hold the vote on Saturday, prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to threaten to foist another late-night vote on the weary chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and President Donald Trump, did not communicate all day Saturday after meeting for an Oval Office lunch just one day prior to the shutdown to try and broker a deal. And further complicating a potential breakthrough: Republicans say they won't negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.

House Republicans apparently scoffed at a tentative framework to reopen the government that was being discussed by a bipartisan group of senators. Under the proposal — conceived by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake of Arizona — Senate Democrats would agree to re-open the government and fund agencies until Feb. 8. In exchange, they would secure a vote on a bipartisan Dreamers bill. While McConnell signaled that he might go along, Senate Democrats also need a commitment from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to include the bill in must-pass legislation in the House.

In the meantime, Graham and Flake have started meeting quietly with well over a dozen fellow senators, both Democrats and Republicans, to hammer out a compromise, Politico said. "My hope is that this bipartisan group will go back to the leaders of both parties and try to find a way to move forward," Graham said on Saturday.

All along, House Speaker Ryan has insisted the Senate needs to approve the House bill to fund the government until Feb. 16 as a starting point for any broader agreement. During a House GOP conference Saturday morning, Ryan told Republicans that they were doing the right thing in refusing to negotiate beyond accepting a three-week stopgap spending plan.

Ryan also predicted that Democrats would soon recognize that they’d overplayed their hand and were already looking for a way out.

So, while Trump and Republicans blame Senate Democrats for the shutdown, Democrats claim it was Ryan's unwillingness to let the House vote on any Dreamers package that led to the first government closure since 2013.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told a meeting of House Democrats on Saturday that it was Ryan's resistance to a DACA fix that caused Democrats to block a bill that would have kept the government open until Feb. 16, triggering the shutdown. Republican aides refuted Durbin's account.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the dispute was over much more than just Dreamers. Fairness in spending allocations between defense and non-defense programs is also at stake, she said.

"I have said, and I will say it again, that we are willing to go to a short-term [continuing resolution] if in fact we have come to a conclusion and agreement on [spending] parity, which is important to us," Pelosi said at a news conference. Such a deal could include more money for defense and border security, she added.

In the Senate, leaders also disagreed on the issue of when a DACA vote would take place, and it appeared later Saturday that a vote was not likely to occur, Politico said. Schumer continues to oppose a plan to fund the government through early February unless there is a commitment to an immigration vote in both chambers, several sources in both parties say.

Well, the tea-leaf reading and interpretation of hints has become increasingly tiresome, observers say—and, increasingly un-useful since positions continue to change dramatically from time to time. So, we will see what happens. In the meantime, there is business that needs to be attended to and national interests that need to be protected. It seems clear that no group is likely to benefit significantly from the shutdown and damages of many kinds are likely to accrue, and we all must watch as this standoff runs its political course, Washington Insider believes.

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