Legislative Watch: Negotiations continue until passed; Brazil puts 20% tariff on ethanol; Tai next U.S. Trade Representative; Regan selected for EPA.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

December 18, 2020

4 Min Read

Negotiations between the House and Senate leaders will continue throughout the weekend on an approximately $900 billion bipartisan coronavirus aid package. The current proposal includes another round of direct payments to individuals, enhances unemployment benefits, provides aid to small businesses and funds the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Indications are that the agreement will include stimulus checks of $600-700 per individual. Also included is $300 per week in supplemental unemployment assistance. This compares to the $1,200 in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Negotiations continue on the number of weeks the assistance would last.    

Two contentious items have been dropped from the negotiations – aid to state and local governments and liability protection for businesses, schools and health-care providers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) have said that Congress will stay in session until an agreement is passed.  

Congress will need to pass a short-term continuing resolution as negotiations continue. Current federal government funding expires midnight tonight. 

More trade and less tariffs

Farmers for Free Trade noted in a report released this week that there are calls for the incoming Biden administration to end the trade wars and tariffs that have negatively impacted American agriculture. 

“In recent years, American agriculture has been sidelined while its competitors have actively pursued strategic trade agreements with our largest markets,” the report said. “At the same time, U.S. production agriculture and supply chains continue to be strained by the multifaceted trade war and Covid-19. These factors not only impact commodity pricing, but also increase input costs, destabilize relationships with trading partners, and have a negative ripple effect on the broader economy.”

The report, “Ag Talks – A roadmap for trade, supply chains, and the future of American agriculture,” being sent to the new administration and Congress lays out a series of recommendations on market access, tariff and non-tariff barriers, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, infrastructure, innovation, and policy and transparency.

Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Complete Phase Two negotiations with China

  • Explore regional and/or bilateral comprehensive trade agreements in Southeast Asia

  • Rejoin the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

  • Repeal the Section 222 tariffs on imported steel and aluminum

  • Resolve trade disputes with China and repeal all market-distorting tariffs

  • Renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)

  • Prioritize robust enforcement of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements

  • Ensure sanitary and phytosanitary provisions are based on science and are not trade-prohibitive

  • Invest in infrastructure – roads, bridges, rail, ports and inland waterways

The recommendations come from five town hall meetings held this summer in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

Members of Farmers for Free Trade include the American Farm Bureau Federation, Corn Refiners Association, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Corn Refiners Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Brazil puts 20% tariff on U.S. ethanol

U.S. ethanol exports to Brazil now face a 20% tariff after negotiations between the two countries failed to extend the tariff rate quota (TRQs) on 198 million gallons of U.S. ethanol. 

The U.S. Grains Council, Growth Energy, Renewable Fuels Association, and National Corn Growers Association in a joint statement said that Brazil’s decision to impose a 20% tariff on all U.S. ethanol imports “is devastating for the U.S. ethanol industry, the future of cooperation and coordination between our nations.”

“Not only does this decision risk destroying the great progress our two nations have made as global leaders in ethanol production, it marks a dramatic turn in our bilateral trade relationship,” the groups said.

Brazil has been seeking greater access to the U.S. sugar market sugar in exchange for the TRQ or ending the tariff on U.S. ethanol.

Tai next U.S. Trade Representative

Katharine Tai will be nominated by President-elect Joe Biden to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. Tai currently serves as the chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee where she has been credited by business and labor groups for helping to finalize the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. She is respected on both sides of the aisle.

Previously, Tai served as associate general counsel for the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) from 2007-2011. She was also USTR’s chief counsel for China trade enforcement, which was responsible for the development and litigation of U.S. disputes against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO). 

Michael Regan selected for EPA

President-elect Biden announced he will nominate Michael Regan to be the EPA administrator.  Regan is currently the secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality. He worked at EPA in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations where he dealt with air issues. At the end of his tenure, he was a national program manager in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards. Regan also worked for the National Defense Fund on climate change issues.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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