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Federal News

Trump's trade war against China is officially underway

The New York Times | Posted on July 7, 2018

A trade war between the world’s two largest economies officially began on Friday morning as the Trump administration followed through with its threat to impose tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese products, a significant escalation of a fight that could hurt companies and consumers in both the United States and China. The penalties, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m., prompted quick retaliation by Beijing. China said it immediately put its own similarly sized tariffs on an unspecified clutch of American goods. Previously, the Chinese government had said it would tax pork, soybeans and automobiles, among other goods. In a statement, China’s Ministry of Commerce said the United States “has launched the biggest trade war in economic history so far.”  The escalation of the trade war from threat to reality is expected to ripple through global supply chains, raise costs for businesses and consumers and roil global stock markets, which have been volatile in anticipation of a prolonged trade fight between the United States and almost everyone else. “At the moment, I don’t see how this ends,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is very much in the president’s hands because he’s got advisers that seem divided, some substantively, some tactically. I just don’t think we’ve had any clear signs of the resolution he wants.” The Trump administration is waging trade wars on multiple fronts as it imposes tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum, solar panels and washing machines from countries like Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Japan. Yet the tariffs on China, the world’s largest manufacturing hub, affect a much larger share of products and a greater percentage of companies that rely on global supply chains, potentially hurting American companies even more than the Chinese firms the Trump administration is targeting. Mr. Trump’s aggressive stance toward China is aimed at pressuring the country to curtail what the White House describes as a pattern of unfair trade practices and theft of American intellectual property. In addition to the tariffs, the White House is placing restrictions on investment and on visas for Chinese nationals. The administration says the trade barriers are being used as leverage to force Beijing to make changes, including opening its markets to American companies and ending its practice of requiring firms operating in China to hand over valuable technology.

EPA leader Scott Pruitt resigns after numerous scandals

CNBC | Posted on July 5, 2018

cott Pruitt's polarizing tenure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency has come to an end. President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday that he has accepted Pruitt's resignation. Trump said that the agency's deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will become the acting head of EPA. The departure follows months of scrutiny that gathered momentum following reports that Pruitt had rented a Capitol Hill condominium linked to an energy lobbyist on favorable terms. The revelation exacerbated concerns about the high cost of Pruitt's travel and security detail and triggered a flood of allegations that Pruitt fostered a culture of workplace retaliation, wasteful spending and self-dealing at EPA.The steady flow of negative news stories prompted multiple government investigators to open several inquiries into Pruitt. His EPA now faces about a dozen probes into its spending, ethics and policy decisions.

China is trying to downplay a brewing trade war with the US by censoring comments from Trump and US authorities

Business Insider | Posted on July 5, 2018

China has ordered state media not to report on comments from President Donald Trump or US officials because of the trade conflict. China told its media to not "attack Trump's vulgarity," and instead said to use state-sanctioned experts and promote "economic brightspots" by using "important page placement." The notice indicates how China is trying to shield its citizens from news of trade escalations with the US. It also seems that Beijing is trying to not anger Western countries by completely censoring mentions of its "Made in China 2025" initiative, warning outlets to not use the phrase or "there will be consequences

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue endorses work requirements for food assistance

The Spokesman-Review | Posted on July 5, 2018

Congress is preparing to reconcile two versions of the farm bill, a sweeping piece of legislation renewed every five years that governs an array of agricultural and food assistance programs, including SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Once known as food stamps, SNAP helps nearly 44 million Americans – mostly children, working parents, the elderly and people with disabilities – afford a basic diet each month. While the Senate version of the farm bill would mostly leave SNAP intact through 2023, the House version, which was backed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, would require able-bodied adults to work or participate in a training program for 20 hours a week to receive benefits, or risk being disqualified from SNAP for up to three years.

Trade disputes get real as Trump delays move on NAFTA decision

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on July 5, 2018

The U.S. agricultural industry is now formally on the receiving end of tariffs on a variety of fronts, even as President Trump said he will wait until after the November midterm elections to sign any new form of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Prospects for a new NAFTA agreement remain stalled as President Trump told Fox News this weekend he is “not happy” with the revised proposal and doesn’t want to sign any new pact until after November’s midterm elections. “I want to make it more fair,” Trump said on the broadcast. He also has called for additional tariffs on China and imported cars, which would potentially harm automakers and economies in Europe, Japan and South Korea.

Podcast: Ticking Debt Bomb

Roll Call | Posted on July 5, 2018

The Congressional Budget Office recently issued an alarming report on the nation's debt outlook, which CQ senior budget reporter Paul M. Krawzak says should worry millennials. The US debt burden is set to break records in early 2030s

With binational tensions unusually high, trends in key Midwest sectors are reminder of value of U.S.-Canada partnerships

CSG Midwest | Posted on July 5, 2018

Recent headlines have pointed to some of the strains (a mix of new tensions and a flare-up of longstanding conflicts) in the U.S.-Canada relationship. There have been proposed U.S. tariffs on steel, harsh words exchanged on Canadian dairy policy, and threats by President Donald Trump to end the North American Free Trade Agreement.But dig a little deeper, and a much different story emerges — one of economic interdependence and cooperation in key areas such as energy and the environment.“The relationship at the provincial-state level is probably as strong, if not stronger, than it has been since the mid-1980s,” says Carlo Dade, director of the Canada West Foundation’s Trade and Investment Centre, pointing, in particular, to the deeper relations built between state governors and provincial premiers.Canada and the United States share much more than the largest binational border in the world; their peaceful relationship has contributed to economic growth in both countries as well as to the development of an intricate, integrated trading partnership.Canada is the largest purchaser of U.S. exports (goods and services combined) in the world; likewise, the United States is Canada’s largest trading partner. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, trade in goods and services between Canada and the United States totaled $674 billion in 2017, with U.S. exports to its northern neighbor exceeding imports.Services, a sometimes overlooked part of the trading relationship, produced this $8 billion surplus for the United States. In Illinois alone, for example, $2.6 billion worth of business, professional, technical, financial and other services were exported to Canada last year.On the goods side, several states in the Midwest have particularly close economic ties with their Canadian neighbors, thanks to this region being a hub of production activity related to the making of cars, industrial engines, plastics, food and energy products.

Farm bill heads to conference committee with concerns over food stamps, animal rights

Lawrence Journal World | Posted on July 5, 2018

Roberts, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, along with the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan, were largely responsible for coordinating the drafting of the Senate version of the bill. It passed Thursday, 86-11.But it is significantly different from the House version of the bill, which passed June 21 by a vote of 213-211, with only Republican support.Democrats in the House objected to provisions of that bill that would impose stricter work requirements in order to qualify for food stamps, while the Senate version makes only modest adjustments to existing eligibility requirements.

Canada Slaps Tariffs on US Beef

DTN | Posted on July 2, 2018

Canada announced a final list of items targeted for retaliation over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, hitting U.S. beef, agricultural chemicals and whiskey, as well as a large number of steel and aluminum products. The $12.6 billion of tariffs will go into effect on July 1. Items will be subject to taxes of 10% or 25%.

Farm Bill Passes Senate

Politico | Posted on June 28, 2018

The Senate easily passed its farm bill by a vote of 86-11, clearing the way for a conference committee to reconcile differences with the House's version of the sweeping agriculture and nutrition legislation. The Senate's bipartisan support of the $867 billion bill, coming a week after the House passed its partisan measure by a margin of just two votes, gives Congress some leeway in its effort to deliver legislation to President Donald Trump to sign before the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30. Reauthorizing the farm bill on time is a priority in farm country, where a prolonged slump in commodity prices has more than halved net farm income in recent years and trade retaliation has already cut into some farmers’ bottom line.