Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Trade Talks Resume, But Patience Required

Washington, D.C.—After the U.S. and China agreed to resume trade talks, those hoping for more signs of progress apparently will need patience, and lots of it.

“This is a very complicated process,” White House trade advisor Peter Navarro told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
“This will take time, and we want to get it right. So, let’s get it right.”

When asked on July 1 about the timing of the next talks between the two countries, President Donald Trump said they had “already begun” and again expressed optimism.
“I think we have a good chance of making a deal,” he said.

As he was leaving the G20 summit in Japan, Trump, who hit pause on putting additional tariffs on Chinese goods, also revealed that China will begin “buying a tremendous amount of food and agricultural products, and they’re going to start that very soon.”

Meanwhile, others hoping for progress also are not waiting.
The American Association of Port Authorities, which has been vocal in expressing its disappointment that ship-to-shore cranes were on the latest tariff list, said it would continue to boost political support and media attention on that issue.

Budget Stall

Members of Congress left town for their annual July 4th break without a budget agreement between their leaders and key White House officials.

The House missed a self-imposed deadline to hold floor votes on all 12 of its annual spending bills by the end of June.

Floor votes have yet to be held on two bills: Homeland Security and Legislative Branch.

Over on the Senate side, the appropriations process for fiscal year 2020 lags even further behind as none of the 12 annual bills has even received a committee vote.

That chamber’s leadership wants to wait for a budget agreement so appropriators can base their bills on actual numbers instead of those used in the House bills, which Republicans continue to warn will never be signed into law by the president.

In addition to actual numbers for appropriators, a budget agreement also is needed to ensure lawmakers can keep the government funded past October 1, when the new fiscal year begins, and avoid a stopgap funding measure.

Leaders also want that agreement to avoid drastic spending cuts later in the year.

MarAd Reauthorization

Legislation reauthorizing the Maritime Administration and making changes to key programs was added to a major defense bill before it was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who earlier had guided his Maritime Administration Authorization and Enhancement Act through the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which he chairs, singled out those provisions.

According to Wicker, they include a 10-year reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program, critical to national defense sealift operations; codification of the administration’s Military to Mariner executive order to streamline the transitioning of active duty and retired members of the military into merchant marine jobs; authorization of increased funding for the Small Shipyard Grant Program; full funding for Title XI maritime guaranteed loan program to support the maritime industrial base; and grants for port and intermodal infrastructure projects under the Port Operations, Research, and Technology (PORT) Act. 

Approved by a Senate vote of 86 to 8, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 is expected to be reconciled with the version working its way through the House.

Three Rivers RNA

The Coast Guard proposes to establish a regulated navigation area for certain waters of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers near Pittsburgh due to a high volume of vessels navigating the area.

Under the proposed rule, persons and vessels would be prohibited from loitering, anchoring, stopping, mooring, remaining or drifting more than 100 feet from any river bank in the regulated navigation area unless authorized in order to reduce vessel congestion and provide for safe passage of transiting vessels in the center of the rivers.

It would also prohibit persons and vessels from loitering, anchoring, stopping, mooring, remaining, or drifting in any manner that impedes the safe passage of another vessel to any launching ramp, marine, or fleeting area unless authorized.

“We invite your comments on this proposed rulemaking,” the Coast Guard stated, adding comments must be received by July 31.

For additional information, contact Lt. Shawn Simeral at 412-221-0807.

MMC Renewal Backlog

Still dealing with a backlog caused by the partial government shutdown, the National Maritime Center (NMC) extended until August 31 merchant mariner credentials (MMC) and medical certificates (national endorsements only) that expired from December 2018 through July.

The NMC said mariners working on expired credentials that meet the expiration criteria must carry the expired credential along with a copy of a letter posted on its website.

“This extension does not change the time frame during which a credential may be renewed,” the NMC said.

“A credential may be renewed at any time during its validity and for one year after expiration based on the expiration date printed on the credential.”

For additional information, contact the NMC Customer Service Center at 1-888-427-5662.

P3 Pilot Program

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified four initial projects for its Civil Works Public-Private Partnership (P3) Pilot Program created to demonstrate how such projects can be delivered faster and cheaper.

Facing further validation for the P3 program, the four projects are Brazos Island Harbor Channel improvement in Texas, Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration in California, Sabine Pass to Galveston Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management in Texas and Soo Locks in Michigan.

One additional project for further development for the program may be identified at a future date, stated the Corps, which announced in February  up to 10 pilot projects could have been identified for the program.

In response to that February request, the Corps stated, eight project-specific proposals were submitted.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James directed the Corps to establish the P3 program in support of President Trump’s initiative on building infrastructure and in response to direction provided by Congress in a 2018 appropriations law.

“The goal of the pilot program is to demonstrate the viability of new delivery methods that can significantly reduce the cost and time of project delivery,” the Corps said in a press release.

“The program is part of the Revolutionize USACE Civil Works initiative to expedite delivery of our nation’s infrastructure by synchronizing actions, developing new tools and streamlining activities.”

The Corps is expected to make the P3 request annually.