Iran

According to the press, the P5+1 negotiators and Iran plan to announce today that they have reached a historic deal that would address Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Though negotiators said that they had hoped to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran by last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Thursday that talks would continue into the weekend. He observed that all were focused on the quality of an agreement that must withstand the test of time.

Under a U.S. law passed earlier this year, any final deal finalized after 10 July will be subject to a 60-day period of congressional review, instead of 30 days, to provide Congress with additional time to account for the month-long August congressional recess.

Greek Debt Crisis

While a full summit meeting of the European Union’s 28 heads of state planned for Sunday was abruptly canceled, Eurozone leaders met on Sunday and into this morning on the Greek debt situation. At the time of publication, no final solution to avert a historic fracture in the Continent’s common currency had been reported. Without an infusion of cash from the European Central Bank this week, Greece’s banking sector is expected to collapse. President Obama addressed the Greek debt crisis with EU leaders last week through a series of telephone calls.

Russia/Ukraine Crisis

During a visit to a Western Ukraine training base, General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the US Army, acknowledged that Ukraine’s Government has requested expanded US military training, but declined to say whether he would support this request. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, U.S. Army Europe Commander, accompanied General Odierno on this visit. The two held talks with senior officials of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, led by Col. Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, and reportedly discussed the situation in Eastern Ukraine and potential joint training activities in the second half of 2015 and in 2016.

General Joe Dunford – President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – described Russia as the greatest threat to U.S. national security at his confirmation hearing last week, saying its behavior as nothing short of alarming. General Dunford also told SASC Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) that it would be reasonable for the United States to provide sophisticated anti-tank and artillery assistance to the Ukrainian government, arguing that Ukrainians will not be able to protect themselves against alleged Russian aggression without that support.

Syria/Iraq

During a hearing last Tuesday before the SASC on the Administration’s strategy to counter ISIL, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter admitted that the United States has only trained 60 Syrian opposition fighters since the program, originally intended to train as many as 5,400 fighters a year, was launched in May. While the Secretary said the vetting process to approve recruited opposition fighters is being streamlined, the acknowledged low number of recruits may provide ammunition to those critics of President Obama’s strategy to combat ISIL.

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Update

Last Thursday, the Senate formally named its representatives to discussions with the House aimed at developing a compromise draft of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). SASC Chairman McCain will lead the Senate group. With informal discussions already underway, Republican leaders hope to present the bill to President Obama for signature before the end of July.

State-Foreign Operations Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) Appropriations bill last Thursday. The Committee adopted a manager’s package of amendments, as well as three standalone amendments. SFOPs Subcommittee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) expressed support for funding to support allies like Israel and Jordan, to protect religious freedom, to counter violent extremism, and to assist global health efforts. He noted that the bill prohibits funding for external email servers at the State Department.

SFOPs Subcommittee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) explained that he may offer amendments relating to Cuba during floor debate of the measure. The approved manager’s package included one amendment proposed by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) that would require the State Department, in consultation with the Defense Department, to submit a report to Congress describing the Administration’s actions towards encouraging NATO member states to increase national budget allocations on defense to at least two percent of respective gross domestic product.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) announced the next TPP chief negotiators will be held in Maui, beginning on 24 July, ahead of the Ministerial meeting scheduled for 28-31 July in Hawaii. House Ways & Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) mentioned that if TPP Ministers are unable to resolve all outstanding issues by the end of July, he will still aim for Congress to consider a final TPP deal before the end of the year.

However, even if a final deal is reached by 31 July, TPA establishes a 90-day layover period before the United States could actually sign the agreement. TPA also requires that the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) complete its economic impact assessment of the agreement before the implementing bill could be submitted to Congress. The USITC has up to 105 calendar days to submit its report to the President and Congress. Realistically, the earliest Congress could conclude review and approval of the trade deal would be November or December.

Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP)

The 10th round of TTIP negotiations will begin next Monday in Brussels. The European Parliament passed a resolution last Wednesday outlining its priorities in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), including a carefully worded investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) amendment. The ISDS provision essentially calls for a series of reforms to the investor protections while still advocating for a system to resolve disputes between investors and states.

Ex-Im Bank Update

While a related amendment was not offered at a Senate Appropriations markup last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) used the opportunity to advocate for renewing the U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank charter, stressing it benefits small businesses in California. She said the Bank should not be viewed as corporate welfare but should instead be recognized as necessary for the U.S. to compete internationally. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) rose in opposition to this view, while Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) rose in support.

Upcoming AGOA Event

On Tuesday, 21 July, the U.S.-Africa Chamber of Commerce (USACC) will host an expert panel at our Washington, DC, office to discuss the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).  Frank Samolis, a partner at the firm who leads International Trade Practice Group, will join Dennis Matanda, a consultant to the African Union Commission, on the panel.  For more details and to RSVP, please click here.

Looking Ahead

Washington will likely focus on the following upcoming matters:

  • 13 July: President Obama to host Conference on Aging
  • 13-17 July: 10th Round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels
  • 23-28 July: President Obama to travel to Kenya attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
  • TBD August: AGOA Forum in Libreville, Gabon
  • 15 September: 70th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opens in New York City
  • 24 September: Pope Francis to address Congress and meet with President Obama
  • 28 September: General debate of the UNGA begins
  • 30 Nov.-11 Dec.: UN Global Climate Conference in Paris