Monday, October 28, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

Here’s What We’re Covering This Week......

It’s a busy week here in Washington, with two major conferences scheduled.  The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership also gets a lot of attention – thanks to a Senate Finance hearing and a visiting delegation of European legislators.
Here are some of the events we’ll be covering:
             ●          On Monday, former World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy discusses the state of globalization at a program sponsored by the Brookings Institution.
             ●          Tuesday, European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding discusses Transatlantic Trade and Investment at an event sponsored by Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
             ●          Also on Tuesday, the European Institute sponsors a roundtable with members of the European Parliament on data protection, privacy and security.
             ●          US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks at a program sponsored by Politico.
             ●          Wednesday, the Coalition of Services Industries holds its annual conference.  USTR Froman speaks again, along with EC Director General for Trade Jean-Luc Demarty and Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb.
             ●          The American University holds its annual trade seminar – this year focusing on regional trade agreements.  Speakers include WTO Apellate Body Chairman Ricardo Ramirez.
             ●          Also on Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee holds its first hearing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
             ●          Thursday, the Commerce Department launches its first SelectUSA Investment Summit aimed at promoting the United States as a destination for foreign investment.  President Obama and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker are among the speakers on Thursday.
             ●          Meanwhile, the Coalition of Services Industries and Taiwan Coalition of Service Industries hold a program on services and investment in the Asia Pacific and Taiwan with speakers including Assistant USTR for Services and Investment Christine Bliss.
             ●          On Friday, Commerce’s SelectUSA conference continues.  USTR Froman and Secretary of State John Kerry speak.

See you there!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Here's What We're Covering This Week

Here’s What We’re Covering This Week.....

Now that the federal government shutdown is over, things are beginning to get back to normal here in Washington.
Here are some of the events we’ll be covering:
             ●          on Tuesday, the Center on Global Interest hosts a program on Russia-US relations with Ambassador Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak.
             ●          Wednesday the Center for Strategic and International Studies sponsors a program on a new development agenda, with speakers including Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson.
             ●          the American International Property Law Association holds its annual conference beginning on Thursday.
             ●          also on Thursday, Rep. Karen Bass holds the latest in a series of breakfasts on issues relating to Africa – this time on eliminating barriers to trade.  House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce is among the speakers.
              ●          the Center for Strategic and International Studies Thursday sponsors a program on Abenomics.  Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Asia Robert Dohner are on the panel.
             ●          Friday, the Washington Foreign Law Society and Perkins Coie sponsor a program on US export controls reform with Assistant Commerce Secretary Kevin Wolf.

See you there!

Friday, October 18, 2013




October 17, 2013 
Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184

Fact Check Mr. President:
The House and Senate Have Already Started Farm Bill Negotiations

In his remarks to the nation this morning, President Obama said the following:

“[N]umber three. We should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on, one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need, one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve. Again, the Senate's already passed a solid bipartisan bill. It's got support from Democrats and Republicans. It's sitting in the House waiting for passage. If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let's see them. Let's negotiate. What are we waiting for? Let's get this done.”

Fact Check:

The House adopted a motion to go to conference on Friday, October 11. The House named conferees to negotiate differences in the House and Senate-passed farm bills on Saturday, October 12.

As reported in Politico, the four principals of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met on Wednesday, October 16, to discuss next steps in enacting a comprehensive farm bill this year. The first, formal conference meeting is expected when the House and Senate are in session together.


Agriculture Committee Press Office

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Here we are in week two of the federal government shutdown.  As we write this, there are at least some rumblings of a possible deal between the White House and Congressional Republicans to reopen the government avoid defaulting on the US debt.  But it’s too soon to tell if a resolution is really in sight.
Even if this all ends soon, damage has already been done.
A prolonged shutdown threatens to cripple the US trade agenda and raise serious concerns among our trading partners that the relationship between President Obama and Congress is so dysfunctional that Washington will not be able to deliver on any of the commitments it makes in trade negotiations.
And that’s according to President Obama, who told reporters earlier this week that his absence from a meeting of the TransPacific Partnership leaders in Bali because of the shutdown didn’t help the negotiations move forward.  The President missed both the TPP meeting and the larger gathering of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum leaders.  And that may have cost the United States.  Mr. Obama likened it to being a businessman who is unable to get to a face-to-face meeting with a prospective client and so fails to close a big deal.
If the stalemate continues, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the other 11 countries involved in the TransPacific Partnership negotiations and the US partner in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations – the European Union – will question whether they really can depend on the Obama Administration working with Congress to get Trade Promotion Authority so that when these FTAs are completed, they could not be torn apart by lawmakers.
The TPP and TTIP – the two cornerstones of President Obama’s much-touted second term trade agenda – have already fallen victim to the shutdown.
A large team of US negotiators were supposed to be in Brussels this week for the second round of TTIP talks – when the two sides were expected to really get down to work for the first time.  But Washington had to cancel at the last minute because it couldn’t send negotiators and support staff – many furloughed – to the meeting.
TPP talks went ahead last week and this week in Bali because many of the staff were in Bali before the shutdown – but President Obama did not show up.  He was absent from the long-awaited TPP leaders meeting that was held on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.  The meeting went ahead without him – Secretary of State John Kerry filled in.  But the President’s absence may have come at a cost.  According to Kyodo news service, Washington had wanted the TPP leaders statement so say that work was “substantively finished” – a phrase that would have sent a strong signal the talks are nearing completion.  But with President Obama – who was supposed to chair the meeting – absent, the remaining 11 leaders opted for watered-down “significant progress” language.
The TPP leaders stuck to their goal of completing the deal by the end of the year.  But there was no mention of when negotiators or trade ministers would reconvene.  Assuming nothing can be scheduled until the federal government is back at work, that year-end goal could be seriously compromised.  That means the TPP – and any hope of getting Trade Promotion Authority – will slip into an election year, when it would be even more difficult to get any kind of bipartisan support.
But it’s not only the big ticket FTAs that are at risk.  The day-to-day US government functions to promote exports, defend US businesses against unfair trade practices, keep unsafe and counterfeits imports out of the market and maintain economic sanctions on Iran have largely ground to a halt.  The Commerce Department was not even able to release its latest monthly data on the US trade balance this week – let alone help potential US exporters find customers overseas.
Another several high-level US trade officials – actually working at their desks – cancelled out on several trade-related business events.  This is the week that Washington hosts the annual joint meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew snuck out of his office to testify before the Senate Finance Committee.  He pointed out that the shutdown, looming default and President Obama’s absence from APEC left a gapping hole that China has been quick to try to fill. Chinese officials ran around Bali touting Beijing as a more reliable economic partner than the United States.  And the possibility of default gives China and other countries like Brazil ammunition in their ongoing efforts to shoot down the dollar from its current perch as the world’s reserve currency.

Mary Berger

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What We're Covering This Week

The continuing government-wide shutdown is curtailing US officials participation in trade-related events this week – and forcing the cancellation of some.  But the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are drawing a lot of high-level foreign trade and financial officials, including a visit by World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo.

Here’s what we plan on covering –
●        on Monday a George Washington University program on the internet and trade, with speakers from the Mexican and Swedish embassies, along with a finance minister from Estonia.
●        also on Monday the American Society for International Law sponsors a session on the “electronic Silk Road,” with New Zealand Ambassador Mike Moore.
●        Tuesday WTD will be at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International studies to hear Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai talk about US-China relations.
●        The NDN holds a seminar on US-Mexico relations, perhaps with Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security Alan Bersin.  On Thursday the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars will hold a program on US-Mexico relations.
●        On Wednesday we will participate in the annual National Foreign Trade Council dinner with Sen. Ron Wyden.
●        Thursday SAIS will host visiting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.  Later in the day he will be at the US Chamber of Commerce.
●        Also on Thursday the US Chamber of Commerce will host several finance ministers from the Pacific Alliance countries of Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru.
●        The World Bank will sponsor a seminar on the rise of the middle class and services in Latin America and the Caribbean, with World Bank President Jin Yong Kim.
●        The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosts a discussion on India’s growth potential with visiting Finance Minister Paloniappan Chidahbaram.
●        On Friday the Kazakhstan Embassy sponsors a program on regional economic integration.
●        The Council on Foreign Relations hosts a session with French Minister of Economy and Finance Pierre Moscovici.
●        The Woodrow Wilson Center holds a session on Brazil’s economy.
●        The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee conducts a hearing on the government shut-down and US economic security.
●        Friday is when WTO Director General Azevêdo speaks to the US Chamber of Commerce.

See you there.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Christian Science Monitor and Journalistic Ethics

This falls in the category of “I Can’t Believe I Heard That”  – or rather “I Can’t Believe
They’re Doing This.”

Having heard through the grapevine that US Trade Representative Michael Froman was being hosted in a rare press interview by the Christian Science Monitor, we naturally thought that we would be excluded – given our size.

Nevertheless, we asked anyway.  And lo-and-behold an invitation came saying the Monitor would be happy to include Washington Trade Daily in the breakfast roundtable with several other press organizations.  We were happy and quickly said yes.

A few minutes later WTD received an e-mail from the Monitor saying bring $47 dollars – in cash, check or credit card.

Whoa!  Wait a minute!

Since when does any organization – much less one that calls it self a news organization – charge for news.  I don’t pay out money for news.  I said so and the Monitor said the $47 only covered the cost of breakfast in a fancy Washington hotel.  I responded that we could not pay to cover news events, but would be happy to come, stand around the wall, not ask questions and not eat.

No go, said the Monitor.  Everyone of the members of press at the event (I don’t know if it applied to Christian Science Monitor reporters) had to pay $47 whether he or she ate or not.  I was told that it was a requirement of the hotel.  ABSOLUTELY NOT SO.

The Washington bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor listed press outlets that agreed to pay.  They included The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Bloomberg BNA, The Associated Press, Reuters, Politico, CBS
News, Politico, ABC News and National Public Radio

(By the way –  our chief competitor, Inside US Trade, didn’t know about the event.)

I objected to the charge and shot off an email of protest to the chief editor at the Boston headquarters –

>> From: <>
>> Date: Mon, Sep 23, 2013 at 5:15 PM
>> Subject: Charging for Christian Science Monitor press breakfast
>> To:
>> I want to express may extreme disappointment with the CSM about
>> charging the press to cover newsmakers events in what is laughingly
>> called CSM breakfasts for the press.
>> How can a newspaper charge other reporters to cover events they
>> sponsor.  Will CSM reporters covering this Thursdays' event in
>> Washington have to pay $47 dollars to cover a senior Administration
>> official -- US Trade Representative Michael Froman.
>> Doesn't the Monitor have any ethics left.  Since its only on-line now,
>> I guess it does not consider itself a legitimate newspaper.
>> Jim Berger
>> Washington Trade Daily
>> 301-946-0817

The email was promptly redirected to the same Washington bureau chief that I was objecting to.

Everyone involved seemed mystified by my objections.  The simple fact, especially for Washington Trade Daily, is that if a news outlet pays for news – with or without a meal – it would justify other organizations charging the press to attend their events.  With all the events – many small – we cover, that would lead to charges upwards of hundreds of dollars a day.

The small, but influential Global Business Dialogue, in fact, had an event at the same time in the same hotel.  It did not feel compelled to charge the press.  Pastries and coffee were even provided.

Conversely, the same principle can apply to sponsors of news events paying reporters to cover their event and write stories.  (Wouldn’t that be nice).

The Christian Science Monitor press breakfasts have been going on for at least two decades, we recently discovered.  Some major news outlets, including Reuter news services, had in the past refused to participate based on the objections we outlined.  But one time the Associated Press got a story and they didn’t, so that rule ceased.

It is unfortunate that any sponsor of a newsworthy – on the record – event should exclude any press, much less insist on them paying to attend.  It is doubly worse when a news organization itself does it to make money.  In fact, it makes no sense that a newspaper should capture a Cabinet-level official and then charge others to attend.  WTD would have kept the official in close quarters, do the interview, write the story and then provide it to our subscribers.   But the Christian Science Monitor apparently doesn’t see it that way.

I suppose USTR Froman – himself a liberal Democrat (I think) – doesn’t either.  Why would he allow himself to be put on display for a fee, as if he were a part of Barnum’s New York Museum.

Now before anyone thinks that WTD is beyond deviousness in obtaining news stories, we must say that although we did not attend the event we snuck in a tape recorder and got the story anyway.

(p.s.:   We wrote a story, but in my opinion, it wasn’t worth $47.)

(p.p.s.:  In full disclosure, WTD has, in fact, paid for lunches in the past.  The $13 for all-you-can-eat Chinese food at the monthly National Economic Club events are just too good to pass up – especially when its mid-day in Washington and the reporter is starving.  The NEC gives the press the option, however, of attending free and not eating.  Tough choice, unlike the Christian Science Monitor event).

Jim Berger
Washington Trade Daily