Representatives of the United States, Mexico and Canada sit down to hash out trade disagreements this week, while President Joe Biden continues discussions with Republicans on an infrastructure package.
The online meeting Monday and Tuesday of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s Free Trade Commission will be historic not just because it’s the first such confab but also because all three countries will be represented by women: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Mexican Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier, and Mary Ng, Canada’s minister of small business, export promotion and international trade.
A USTR statement said the meeting would feature “robust discussions about USMCA’s landmark labor and environmental obligations, which set the standard for future trade agreements.” Tai has promised lawmakers she will press her Mexican and Canadian counterparts on agricultural trade complaints.
During two days of hearings on Capitol Hill last week she promised Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that she would confront Clouthier over Mexico’s plans to ban GMO corn as well as glyphosate.
And when it comes to Canada, Tai promised House members that she will address U.S. dairy farmers’ concerns that Canada is misusing the new quotas it agreed to under the renegotiated trade pact.
Meanwhile, the White House continues to insist that the president is serious about wanting an infrastructure deal with Senate Republicans after both sides described a meeting last Thursday as “productive.”
Republicans are expected to respond with a counterproposal by Tuesday, but it’s still not clear how they are going to close the gap with Biden on either the scope of an infrastructure package or how to pay for it. Also on Tuesday, Biden will be showcasing his proposals for electric vehicles by visiting a Ford plant in Michigan where he will get an advance look at the electric F-150 Lightning pickup.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that increased user fees, the GOP’s favored funding mechanism, would break Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.
But Psaki did suggest that one possible area of agreement is over increased enforcement of existing tax laws. The White House estimates Biden’s plan could raise $700 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years by giving the Internal Revenue Service more resources to target large corporations, businesses, and estates, and higher-income individuals with tax enforcement.
“I do expect there may be proposals that are discussed in these private discussions” that wouldn’t break Biden’s pledge to protect people making less than $400,000, Psaki said. “He is open to a range of ideas, including ones he didn't propose.”
The top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Shelley Moore-Capito of West Virginia, said after Thursday’s White House meeting that Biden “left a lot of room for us to negotiate,” while pressing his concerns about making the United States more competitive with China and shifting toward electric vehicles.
“He made it clear that he's sincere in wanting to pursue this (a deal), and in the end we agreed if it doesn't work, we'll walk away friends,” Capito told reporters.
Lawmakers continue holding hearings this week on infrastructure needs as well as how to pay for addressing them.
The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing Tuesday on funding options for infrastructure and the House Ways and Means Committee will follow with a similar hearing on Wednesday. Last week, a Ways and Means subcommittee spent considerable time debating the merits of taxing capital gains at death and ending stepped-up basis, a major concern for many farm groups.
The chairman of the House subcommittee, California Democrat Mike Thompson, made clear he was concerned about the potential impact of the tax proposal on agriculture, citing the soaring price for land in his wine-growing district.
Also this week, the Senate Agriculture, and Energy and Natural Resources will both have hearings Thursday on the potential for reforestation and forest management to address greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ag Committee last month approved a bill, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, intended to help farmers, ranchers and foresters take part in voluntary carbon markets by putting USDA in charge of certifying credit verification services and technical advisers. Separate bills have been introduced to promote reforestation.
To deter wildfires in national forests, the Biden’s American Jobs Plan would provide the Forest Service with $1 billion to back bonds issued on federal land restoration projects to speed large-scale restoration. There also is funding for USDA to fund "resilient forest restoration projects in the West for thinning, prescribed fire, and reforestation efforts."
Here is a list of agriculture- or rural-related events scheduled for this week in Washington and elsewhere (all times EDT):
Monday, May 17
U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement Free Trade Commission meeting, through Tuesday.
4 p.m. - USDA releases weekly Crop Progress report.
Tuesday, May 18
10 a.m. - House Agriculture Committee hearing for House members, 1300 Longworth.
10 a.m. - House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing for House members.
10 a.m. - Senate Finance Committee hearing, “Funding and Financing Options to Bolster American Infrastructure.”
10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nominations of Robert Anderson to be solicitor of the Interior Department, Shannon Estenoz to be assistant interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks and Tanya Trujillo to be an assistant interior secretary for water and science, 366 Dirksen.
10:30 a.m. - House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, “The Need for Universal Broadband: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Wednesday, May 19
10 a.m. - House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Customs and Border Protection.
10 a.m. - House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, “Global Climate Finance.”
10 a.m. - House Ways and Means Committee hearing on funding infrastructure spending through taxes, 1100 Longworth.
10 a.m. - Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Examining Biodiversity Loss: Drivers, Impacts, and Potential Solutions, G-50 Dirksen.
Thursday, May 20
8:30 a.m. - USDA releases Weekly Export Sales report.
9:30 a.m. - Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, “Federal, State, and Private Forestlands: Opportunities for Addressing Climate Change,” 301 Russell.
10 a.m. - Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on forest management and carbon, 366 Dirksen.
Friday, May 21
1 p.m. - National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research webinar, “Global Trade Policy under the New Administration.”
Bill Tomson contributed to this report.
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