Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Trade Talks With China Hit Political Snag

Washington, D.C.—President Donald Trump said he canceled a scheduled six-month review of the historic trade agreement between the U.S. and China because of “what they did to this country and the world” by not stopping the coronavirus.

“I don’t want to talk to China right now,” Trump told reporters during a visit to Arizona.

Asked if he was going to pull out of the trade deal, the president said, “We’ll see what happens.” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke to reporters later on Air Force One and added his perspective.

“Obviously the trade representatives talk to each other on a pretty regular basis,” Meadows said.

“I don’t think he (President Trump) said he was walking away from the trade deal. He said he was reviewing it,” Meadows said. He confirmed the canceled meeting that was expected to be held virtually August 15 has not been rescheduled.

“There’s not going to be any talks,” Meadows said.

Despite the attention that the expected review had been receiving, the cancellation was not viewed as a negative by some observers.

David Dollar, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told CNBC a six-month review at this point might reveal China’s purchases under Phase 1 of the trade agreement remain below those of recent years.

“I think it is in the interest of the two parties to have a little more time,” Dollar said.

“China does seem to be stepping up their soybean purchases and their energy purchases. So, if you reviewed right now, objectively it is not very good. Give it a little more time; it’ll probably look somewhat better.” Even while not holding back on blaming China for the coronavirus, Trump once again promoted the recent record corn order by China.

“That’s because they think I’m not happy,” Trump said. “I’m not. I’m not. I’m not happy at all. Just the opposite.”

Coronavirus Relief Legislation

With no progress on coronavirus relief legislation, the Senate joined the House on their traditional August recess as the nation turned its attention to the two national political conventions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), alarmed by operational changes at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and their potential impact on voting by mail in the November elections, announced her chamber will return to vote on a $25 billion bill to support the USPS.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the Louisville Courier Journal he did not think his chamber would pass a postal-only bill, but he said House passage of such a measure could be an opportunity for discussion on a coronavirus relief package that would be smaller than the one pushed by Democratic leaders.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a key negotiator for the administration along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, told reporters that “some in the Democratic caucus and some in the Republican conference, both in the House and the Senate” want to do a smaller deal on items where agreement can be reached.

Meadows listed USPS funding, the Paycheck Protection Program and school aid as examples.

“It could be about $500 billion. With a B,” Meadows said.

In May, the House passed a sweeping, $3 trillion package, and, so far, Democratic leaders have indicated they will not go as low as $500 billion.

Houston REC Reopens

The National Maritime Center (NMC) continues to reopen Regional Examination Centers (RECs) and Monitoring Units (MUs) with restrictions.

So far, NMC has announced the reopening of RECs in Houston, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Juneau, Alaska; and MUs in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Ketchikan, Alaska.

It advised mariners to contact those individual offices by telephone or email to schedule examinations.

“Examination services will be by appointment only. No walk-in appointments are available, and all other application customer service functions will continue to be handled remotely,” the NMC stated.

Mariners will be subject to COVID-19 screening questions and temperature checks before entering the facilities, and they will be required to wear a face covering at all times, the NMC said, adding they also should bring their own No. 2 pencils, a non-programmable calculator and plotting equipment.

Additional REC/MU openings are expected to be announced shortly, the NMC said.

MRC Hearings

The Mississippi River Commission scheduled three meetings later this month aboard the Mississippi V.

Open to the public, the 9 a.m. meetings are to be held August 24 at Caruthersville city front, Caruthersville, MO.; August 26 at Greenville city front, Greenville, Miss.; August 28 at Morgan City Port Commission Dock, Morgan City, La.

Their agendas include a report by the commission president on issues affecting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, commission programs and projects on the Mississippi River and its tributaries; district commanders’ overview of current project issues within local districts; and presentations by local organizations and members of the public on any issue affecting the programs or projects of the commission and the Corps of Engineers.

For additional information, contact Charles Camillo at 601-634-7023.

Gulf Maritime Security Committee

The Coast Guard is requesting applications to fill two positions on the Gulf of Mexico Area Maritime Security Advisory Committee (AMSC) to assist on the Area Maritime Security Plan.

Applications should reach the U.S. Coast Guard Federal Maritime Security Coordinator (FMSC) Eighth Coast Guard District by September 18.

Members of the seven-member AMSC should have at least five years of experience related to maritime or port security operations, but applicants for the two positions to be filled—the vice chairperson and co-chairperson (Planning and Exercises Subcommittee)—will be expected to have additional experience.

Ideal candidates for the vice chairperson position will have more than 10 years of experience in security and/or emergency operations management with significant time working in the Gulf of Mexico or similar operational environments, and those for the co-chairperson position will have more than 10 years of experience in emergency management planning for a maritime company or energy exploration and production company working in the Gulf of Mexico or similar operating environment.

For additional information, contact Nick Parham at 504-671-2044.