Trump Announced he Will Sign a Phase 1 Trade Agreement

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump announced he will sign a “very large and comprehensive” Phase 1 trade agreement with China on January 15.

“The ceremony will take place at the White House. High level representatives of China will be present,” the president said on Twitter.

“At a later date I will be going to Beijing where talks will begin on Phase 2.”

Later, during brief comments with reporters, Trump said negotiations on Phase 2 will begin “very soon,” adding that phase should bring an end to talks between the two economic giants.
“I think that should complete it,” he said.

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Trump’s tweet and comments to the press followed White House adviser Peter Navarro’s appearance the day before on Fox News, during which he described the first phase of the U.S.-China trade agreement as a “done deal, put that one in the bank.”
“We are just waiting for the translation,” Navarro said of the 86-page agreement, which was announced days earlier.

Details of that much-anticipated deal have not been released, and Navarro said they will not be until the translation has been completed.

While sidestepping certain questions, Navarro did not hold back when promoting the importance of that agreement along with other trade deals accomplished by the Trump administration that he said will be in “full force” in 2020.

Other agreements involve Japan, South Korea, Canada and Mexico, and Navarro once again emphasized the importance of the USMCA, (U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement), which has been approved by the House and is expected to receive a Senate vote in early 2020.

In addition to those trade deals, Navarro said a “sleeper” will be the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, which he said provides a floor for a strong fiscal stimulus that also will strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base.

National Freight Strategic Plan
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is seeking information from shippers, cargo owners and other stakeholders to help it develop a National Freight Strategic Plan (NFSP) as required by law.

Comments must be received by February 10.

“The safe and efficient movement of freight is vital to the nation’s economic growth and to the creation of well-paying jobs for millions of Americans,” stated DOT, which described the nation’s freight transportation system as a complex network of navigable waterways, millions of miles of highways, railways and pipelines that are linked through hundreds of seaports, airports and intermodal facilities.

Required first by the MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) Act, NFSP was expanded to include a multimodal approach by the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, which was signed into law in 2015.

Under the FAST Act, DOT also is required to include in its NFSP specific components such as an assessment of the condition and performance of the National Multimodal Freight Network; forecasts of freight volumes for succeeding five-, 10-, and 20-year periods; identification of bottlenecks and a cost estimate of addressing them; and an assessment of statutory, regulatory and other barriers to improved freight transportation performance.

For additional information, contact Ryan Endorf at 202-366-4835.

WOTUS Teleconference
The Science Advisory Board (SAB) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to conduct a public meeting by telephone only at 1 p.m. January 17 to receive oral comments on a draft report on EPA’s proposed revised definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and other proposed rules.

To participate in the teleconference, dial 1-866-299-3188 and use code 2023439977#.

A recently posted draft commentary by a WOTUS Work Group established by the SAB states that aspects of EPA’s proposed rule conflict not only with established science but with the objectives of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

“It is readily apparent that a conflict exists between current, recognized hydrological science versus the CWA and its subsequent case law,” the commentary states after laying out problems with the proposed rule.

“This suggests that new legislation is needed to update the CWA to reflect scientific discoveries since 1972.”

For additional information, contact Dr. Thomas Armitage at 202-564-2155.

Keeping with a timeline published in October, the first step of a two-step process to repeal the controversial 2015 rule put in place by the Obama administration and restore the regulatory text that existed before 2015 took effect on December 23.

EPA has said it expects to complete Step 2 by the end of this winter and put in place the revised definition of WOTUS to provide a clear definition of where federal jurisdiction begins and ends under the CWA.

Saying the proposed rule is now undergoing a White House review, the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association expressed confidence the effort remains on track.

Drug Testing Rate Unchanged
The Coast Guard announced it will maintain the minimum random drug testing rate for 2020 at 50 percent of covered crewmembers.

In its Federal Register notice, the Coast Guard explained that the testing rate will remain the same as the 2019 rate because the Management Information System data indicated the positive rate continues to be greater than 1 percent.

Federal regulations require the commandant to set the minimum random testing rate at 50 percent when the positive rate for drug use is greater than 1 percent.

“The purpose of setting a minimum random drug testing rate is to promote maritime safety by establishing an effective deterrent to drug misuse within the maritime workforce,” the notice stated.

“Intoxicated operations pose a serious threat to life, property and the environment in the maritime commons. As such, the minimum random drug testing rate is intended to deter and detect illegal drug misuse in the maritime industry.”

Effective January 1, the random drug testing rate for 2020 will run through December 31.

For additional information, contact Patrick Mannion at DAPI@uscg.mil.

World War II Mariners Honored
Before leaving for its holiday recess, the Senate approved a House bill authorizing a Congressional Gold Medal to recognize the service and sacrifice of merchant mariners during World War II.

Passed by unanimous consent, H.R. 550, sponsored by Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), now goes back to the House for approval of what was described as grammatical and technical changes made by the Senate.

A spokesman for Garamendi said the congressman is looking forward to sending the bill to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law when the House returns in January.

The Coast Guard urged members of the maritime community to verify the validity of senders of unsolicited emails before opening or responding to them after a recent cyberattack disrupted the corporate information technology (IT) at a facility regulated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA).

Primary operations at that facility were shut down for more than 30 hours while a cyber-incident response was conducted, the Coast Guard said.

It also recommended that facility owners and operators continue to evaluate their cybersecurity defense measures to reduce the effect of a cyber-attack.

Identified as “Ryuk” ransomware, the virus allowed a threat actor to access files, encrypt them and block the facility’s access to them.

It also disrupted camera and physical access control systems.

While forensic analysis continues, the bulletin stated the ransomeware may have entered the facility’s network via an email phishing campaign.

In its Marine Safety Information Bulletin 10-19, “Cyberattack Impacts MTSA Facility Operations,” the Coast Guard shared measures that may have prevented or limited the breach and recommended facilities utilize the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) and NIST Special Publication 800-82 when implementing a Cyber Risk Management Program.