Washington Insider -- Monday

Bated Breath in DC

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

Push to End US Steel, Aluminum Duties Against Mexico, Canada Continues

Two groups this week will urge the end of metal tariffs on U.S. allies Canada and Mexico.

The Alliance for Competitive Steel and Aluminum Trade plans to meet with lawmakers Feb. 4-5 and press on the need to remove U.S. metal tariffs on Canada and Mexico before congressional vote on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

USMCA supporters say the steel and aluminum tariffs are diverting industry attention that should be focused on getting the new agreement with Mexico and Canada passed. The metal industry alliance includes businesses ranging from automobile manufacturing to pet food makers and farm groups such as the U.S. Grains Council.

The group Tariffs Hurt the Heartland is leading its own effort Feb. 6-7 with a message that tariffs are a bad weapon to use in trade skirmishes because consumers and industries are hurt.

Major associations participating in this second group include the National Retail Federation, Toy Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, National Fisheries Institute, American Chemistry Council, and the American Apparel and Footwear Association. Businesses participating include IBM, Hasbro Wicked Cool Toys, Walmart, and Hewlett Packard.


AFIA Updates Biosecurity Guidance Due To ASF Outbreak

Updated biosecurity guidelines were released by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) amid outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) -- including one currently affecting China.

The recent ASF outbreaks motivated AFIA to "create a multi-pronged action plan," the group said. The effort aims to develop "science-based solutions for mitigating the risks of virus transmission through feed" and the "communicate any new information and recommendations to the industry and producer groups." Updated biosecurity guidelines are one product of the effort.

"AFIA's biosecurity guidelines were originally written to help safeguard manufacturing facilities following 9/11, but were always meant to serve as a 'living document' that could be updated based on what we know about new and emerging threats," said AFIA Director of Quality, Animal Food Safety and Education Paul Davis. "While some threats aren't at the back door yet, it doesn't mean we can leave the door unlocked. Our industry must be vigilant about continually improving its biosecurity programs for the protection of animal and human health."

To develop the updated guidelines, AFIA collaborated with the pork industry, government and academia. It incorporated changes "based on new information regarding how viruses can potentially spread throughout the feed manufacturing process."


Washington Insider: Bated Breath in DC

There's an unusually significant moment for the United States ahead of Tuesday's State of the Union Address. That highly-charged address, delayed by the aftermath of the government shutdown, now falls on week jam-packed with U.S. and global economic and political reports, announcements and speeches.

For one, this week marks Jerome Powell's first anniversary as chairman as the Federal Reserve. The chairman, Bloomberg reminds us with reporting, is under pressure to deliver on his commitment to "explain what we are doing and why we are doing it."

His anniversary comes amid uncertainty over U.S. economic and trade policies, tough negotiations with China and significant global decisions about important policy positions. Powell will host a town hall meeting with educators in Washington on Wednesday, a day after he celebrates his anniversary.

He does so after a year, which witnessed four interest rate hikes by the Fed, and numerous unappreciative tweets from President Trump. The year did end with policy makers delighting markets by signaling they may not tighten monetary policy again for a while.

Powell's Feb. 6 appearance will be live-streamed to the public who will also be able to join the discussion via social media. It gives the Fed chairman a chance to flesh out his reasoning for the dovish turn amid questions over what necessitated such a dramatic shift.

"Monetary policy makers may have been spooked by economic and financial developments at their first meeting of the year, but the labor market remains on very sound footing," said Carl Riccadonna, chief U.S. Economist at Bloomberg Economics. "Policy makers will be satisfied to let the data do the heavy lifting, rather than Fed communications, in terms of convincing market participants of the need for further action."

Powell isn't alone in speaking. Loretta Mester of the Cleveland Fed is scheduled for Monday and Vice Chairmen Randal Quarles and Richard Clarida speak on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. James Bullard of the St. Louis Fed has an appearance on Thursday and Mary Daly of the San Francisco Fed speaks Friday.

Elsewhere, there are monetary policy decisions in the UK, India, Mexico, Australia, Brazil and across eastern Europe.

Data delayed by the government shutdown in the U.S. are scheduled to be published in the near future, while numbers in the euro area will shed more light on how fast its economy is slowing.

Bloomberg notes the U.S. will start to publish economic reports delayed by the shutdown, including the Census Bureau's November's trade balance.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg project the deficit will narrow to $54 billion from $55.5 billion the prior month. Eyes will also turn to the imbalance with China as the two largest economies continue to negotiate the future of their trade relationship. Those talks are likely to come up in Trump's State of the Union address tomorrow and the final reading on November factory orders is scheduled for release Monday.

Bloomberg highlights additional industrial data from Germany along with services purchasing managers index from Italy and Spain that will provide the final such readings for the region and a further glimpse into the health of the euro-area economy after a torrid end to 2018. The European Commission will also release fresh economic predictions.

In the UK, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will present his final set of forecasts on Thursday before Brexit is due to happen on March 29, although they will be clouded by the unknowns of what that might entail. Iceland, Poland, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Russia and Romania all set rates too although the betting is each will make no changes. Turkish inflation is seen staying around 20.3%.

In addition, Venezuela will continue to capture the headlines with pressure mounting on Nicolas Maduro at home and abroad. On Wednesday, Brazil's central bank is expected to keep its key interest rate at a record low of 6.5% in what is likely the last meeting under President Ilan Goldfajn.

The next day, Mexican policy makers are set to keep their benchmark at the highest level in a decade as they meet for the first time since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's two appointees joined the board. They will have new inflation data that comes out that day. In Canada, consumer confidence data on Monday and the employment report on Friday will signal how soft the economy is.

Those are a dizzying amount of data points on the state of the global economy to pack into a week. Combine all that with the possibility the U.S. government could again be closed if the administration's recommendations for border policies are not followed, and you have a lot of developments producers should pay close attention to as the week progresses and debates emerge and intensify, Washington Insider believes.


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(GH/BAS)