President Barack Obama hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House last week for an official Head of State Visit, marking the close bilateral relationship between the two countries.  President Obama will visit the State Department today to deliver remarks at the Chief of Missions Conference.  Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman heads to Belgium later this week to attend the German Marshall Fund’s 2016 Brussels Forum.

The Senate was in session last week, while the House of Representatives was in recess.  Both chambers of Congress will be in session this week, with a number of state-foreign operations and defense-related budget hearings scheduled.

Canada – Head of State Visit

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mrs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau in Washington on 10 March for an Official Visit and a State Dinner at the White House.  In a fact sheet released by the White House, the United States and Canada announced plans to join forces on an initiative to increase participation by North and South American nations in the G-8’s 24/7 Network, which seeks to connect national law enforcement in the battle against high-tech crime.  The fact sheet also details bilateral trade, climate change, mutual national security interests, the Global Health Security Agenda, and collaboration on the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative.

Iran – Ballistic Missile Tests Continue; Senate Threatens to Act

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement last Wednesday, after reports of Iran launching ballistic missiles for a second straight day.  He observed Iran has reaped the rewards of sanction relief from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and is deliberately testing the will of the United States and the international community.  Chairman Corker added:

“The Obama Administration and the U.N. Security Council must wake up and impose costs on Iran because clearly the current ballistic missile sanctions regime is ineffective.  Failing to do so risks further aiding the regime’s attempts to discredit international efforts to contain their ballistic missile program and exposes real vulnerabilities when it comes to dealing with nuclear violations if they occur.  There is already a strong bipartisan movement in the Senate to act.”

That same day, President Obama made a routine renewal of some existing non-nuclear sanctions related to Iran, declaring that certain actions and policies of the Iranian Government continue to pose “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security.  His transmittal statement to Congress made clear the extension of these sanctions do not violate the JCPOA.

TPP Developments

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest signaled last week that President Obama is close to a decision on moving forward with his plan to seek a congressional vote this year on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

TTIP Developments

EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström was in Washington last week, meeting with Ambassador Froman and discussing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.  At an event at the Peterson Institute, Commissioner Malmström expressed confidence TTIP negotiations could conclude by the end of the year.

Ambassador Froman’s Schedule This Week

Ambassador Froman is scheduled to attend the kick-off meeting today for the TPP Coalition at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington.  On Tuesday, he is scheduled to deliver remarks to the Chiefs of Mission Conference at the Department of State.  Ambassador Froman will travel to Belgium later in the week to attend the German Marshall Fund’s 2016 Brussels Forum and meet again with EU Commissioner Malmström.

Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 15 March:
    • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Ukrainian Reforms Two Years After the Maidan Revolution and the Russian Invasion.”  Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland is scheduled to testify before the Committee.
    • The House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Review of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Foreign Assistance Budget: Aligning Interests, Ensuring Effectiveness and Transparency.”
    • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs is scheduled to hold a budget hearing to examine the Department of Treasury’s International Programs.
    • The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Current State of Readiness of U.S. Forces.”
    • The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The U.S. Transportation Command FY 2017 Readiness Posture.”
    • The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Trade is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Trade with Cuba: Growth and Opportunities.”
    • The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “U.S.-India Relations: Democratic Partners of Economic Opportunity.”
    • The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Posture of the Department of the Navy.”
    • The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “U.S. Policy Toward National Self-Determination Movements.”
    • The Senate Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing to review the FY 2017 budget request and funding justification for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • On Wednesday, 16 March:
    • The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Five Years of War: The Plight of Civilians in Syria and the Refugee Crisis of a Generation.”
    • The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Military Departments.”
    • The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The FY 2017 funding request and budget justification for the National Guard and Reserve.”
    • The House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a budget hearing to examine the funding for USAID.”
    • The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “FY 2017 Budget Request for U.S. Cyber Command: Preparing for Operations in the Cyber Domain.”
    • The Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Army Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle and Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft Enterprises.”
    • The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “FY 2017 Army and Air Force Rotorcraft Modernization Programs.”
    • The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Evaluating DOD Investments: Case Studies in Afghanistan Initiatives and U.S. Weapons Sustainment.”
  • On Thursday, 17 March:
    • The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Department of Defense Budget Posture.”
    • The House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The Department of the Navy 2017 Operation and Maintenance Budget Request and Readiness Posture.”
    • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Reviewing the Administration’s Nuclear Agenda.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 18-20 March:  German Marshall Fund’s 2016 Brussels Forum
  • 20-22 March:  President Obama travels to Cuba
  • 23-24 March:  President Obama travels to Argentina
  • 31 March – 1 April:   Nuclear Security Summit in Washington
  • April 25-29:  President Obama attends the Hannover Messe in Germany
  • [TBA] May:  President Obama travels to Vietnam and Laos
  • 8-9 July:  NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland