Washington Insider-- Tuesday

President Elect Presses Ahead as Trump Digs In

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

Report: China Likely To Seek To Renegotiate Phase One Agreement

The election of former Vice President Joe Biden has already spawned talk in China that the country will seek to renegotiate the Phase One trade deal with the U.S., according to the South China Morning Post.

The report labeled the deal as being viewed in China as “twisted” and that they see a Biden administration as being more “rational.” The report specifically pointed to the purchase commitments made by China in the trade deal — to purchase $200 billion in additional goods from the U.S. beyond a 2017 baseline level.

"Biden will sooner or later launch a renegotiation of the trade deal, as the current deal is unrealistic. A renegotiation is also in line with China's wishes," Shi Yinhong, an advisor to China's State Council, said. But he also said the expectation is that a Biden administration would probably seek to extract more structural changes in any renegotiation effort. "The incoming Biden administration will probably take a tougher stance on Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, South China Sea, other human rights issues, and the alleged Chinese intelligence activities in the U.S.”

Other China sources quoted in the article echoed the sentiments that a Biden administration would most likely use renegotiation as a “bargaining chip” to extract more pledges from China on issues like intellectual property or further opening its financial markets. But issues on labor and human rights would be less likely to see much give on the part of China.

U.S. trade contacts in the article indicated it was “wishful thinking” on the part of China relative to renegotiating the trade deal and that any such effort that is seen as making the deal easier on China would validate Trump campaign statements that Biden would be soft on China.

US Elections Factor Into Delay In Picking A WTO Chief

The process of picking a new Director General to lead the World Trade Organization (WTO) is on hold, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic but also the U.S. elections.

WTO members were advised Friday via a document circulated from WTO General Council Chairman David Walker of New Zealand. "It has come to my attention that for reasons including the health situation and current events, delegations will not be in a position to take a formal decision on 9 November," Walker said in the statement. "I am therefore postponing this meeting until further notice during which period I will continue to undertake consultations with delegations."

The delay was widely expected as the process has narrowed the choices down to two candidates — former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee. While most have expressed support for Okonjo-Iweala, the U.S. backs Yoo, preventing a unanimous selection from being made.


Washington Insider: President Elect Presses Ahead as Trump Digs In

President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward to begin the transition as President Donald Trump continues to fight against his losses.

Biden is largely ignoring Trump's efforts to undermine his victory, Bloomberg reports. He is methodically moving forward moving to launch his transition and is working to identify potential appointees to White House staff jobs. He “seemed to acknowledge the sharp partisan divide in pledging to work for those who didn't vote for him, but continues to say he expects a good working relationship with Republicans in Congress,” Bloomberg said.

Biden has so far won 290 Electoral College votes, according to the Associated Press, “20 more than required to clinch the nomination.”

However, none of that has stopped Trump, who continues to question the results and to fire off unfounded allegations of “widespread voting irregularities” and to alternate between claiming victory and saying he'd been robbed of a win.

Trump's reaction has “frozen” Republican officeholders, Bloomberg says. Few have so far acknowledged the win, though they aren't fully embracing Trump's position. White House staff have faced a leadership vacuum, fueled by another apparent coronavirus outbreak with Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, among those now battling the virus.

Tellingly, the administrator of the General Services Administration, a Trump appointee, has so far not formally acknowledged Biden's win, as required under the 57-year-old Presidential Transition Act. Certification by the GSA administrator allows transition teams to fan across the federal government, access expanded office space, start tapping into $6 million of funding, and study detailed agency briefing books.

Republican congressional leaders also “still seem wary” of crossing Trump and are holding back from acknowledging Biden's victory. Some prominent party members, including former President George W. Bush and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, have offered Biden congratulations since Saturday morning. Plaudits from world leaders have also piled up.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday that Trump is "100% within his right to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options."

Other GOP leaders in Congress have either stayed silent or suggested that legal challenges to the outcome should be allowed to play out. None, however, have repeated Trump's unsubstantiated claims of widespread vote fraud. There are indications of limits to how long they'll wait.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of McConnell's leadership team, said media projections of the winner are mostly meaningless, especially since so many forecasts for the election turned out to be wrong. Any determination of the result should await final counts by state officials and any challenges from the president's legal team, he said on Sunday. “That has to happen and then we move forward. It's time for the president's lawyers to present the facts and then it's time for those facts to speak for themselves.”

Still, Bloomberg says that recognition is growing in Trump's inner circle that efforts to overturn Biden's victory will be futile. His closest aide, son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, has recommended the president ask the courts to ensure transparency around ongoing counts of ballots in several contested states, the people said.

Nevertheless, Biden is launching transition efforts to shape the new administration, but is still weeks away from making cabinet nominations, his transition team said yesterday. Since the election was called Saturday, President-elect Biden has not yet started working through potential nominees in depth.

The coming transition likely will follow a calendar similar to that of President Barack Obama's in 2008, when almost all nominations were announced in December. The one exception then, in the middle of a financial crisis, was Treasury Department nominee Tim Geithner, who was announced on Nov. 24.

Biden also plans to reach out to Republicans and Democrats in Congress to discuss a new COVID relief package, with one ally calling on Trump to support one before Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

The Senate now stands at 48-48 with counts still going on in North Carolina and Alaska — and Republican incumbents seem likely to win some of those seats. Democrats would need both Georgia seats to get to 50 in the Senate, which would give them control by virtue of Kamala Harris as vice president having the tie-breaking vote.

So, we will see. The new administration faces almost endless problems and opposition — including fights beyond the continuing political pushbacks. These are important battles, in many cases, and ones that producers should watch closely as they proceed, Washington Insider believes.

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