U.S., China Trade Officials Talk Re: Phase 1 as USTR Says 'Good Progress'

Posted on 05/08/2020 8:00 AM

April unemployment rate at record 14.7%; payrolls dropped by 20.5 million

 

 


In Today’s Updates


 

* USTR: U.S. and China making 'good progress' on Phase 1 trade deal with China
* Global, U.S. equities rise on signs of easing trade tensions between U.S. and China
* China watchers: Thursday's China purchases of U.S. corn is start of stepped-up buys
* Yield on 2-year U.S. Treasury note slid to record low of 0.129% Thursday
* April unemployment rate at record 14.7%; payrolls dropped by 20.5 million
* Fed official warns of recession resurging if reopening efforts happen too quickly

* IMF: Global economic outlook has continued to worsen since its April 14 forecast
* Major devaluation in the Brazilian real is bad news for U.S. soybean farmers
* First U.S. crude cargo in 6 months heading to China
* U.S. gasoline prices on the rise
* Perdue: Payment limits will be increased on CFAP payouts from initial expectations

* SBA reportedly caps loans from EIDL to $150,000, down from $2 million
* U.S. food supply/industry update*
* Update on reopening America... and around the world *
* Coronavirus update
* U.S. to remove patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia
* David Wasserman: May 2020 House overview: Democrats' advantage grows
* Farm-state senators oppose biofuel/RFS waivers; sent letter to Trump
* Commerce determines duties to remain on Argentine biodiesel
* DOJ dropping its criminal case against Michael Flynn

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stocks rose, boosted by signs of easing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The gains came after China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that trade negotiators for both countries talked on the phone Friday, pledging to create favorable conditions for the Phase 1 trade deal. U.S. stock futures are rallying this morning, after major indexes climbed again yesterday. The tNasdaq extended its weekly gain and turned positive for 2020, the first time the index has closed in the green for the year since March 4.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow rose 211.25 points, 0.89%, at 23,875.89. The Nasdaq gained 125.77 points, 1.41%, at 8,979.66. The S&P 500 moved up 32.77 points, 1.15%, at 2,881.19.

 

     The yield on the 2-year U.S. Treasury note slid to a record low of 0.129% Thursday, reflecting expectations for interest rates to stay near or even fall below below zero moving forward. Yields fall as bond prices rise.

 

USDA announced a daily export sale of 120,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2019-20 marketing year.

 

Farm bankruptcies on the rise. Some 627 farm bankruptcies were filed in the 12 months ending in March, up 23% from the previous year, said the Farm Bureau, and the coronavirus pandemic, by reducing farm income, "could increase farm bankruptcies."

 

Oil prices today: Crude oil futures are showing modest gains, with U.S. crude trading around $23.75 per barrel and Brent crude around $29.65 per barrel.

 

     Oil prices yesterday: Front-month U.S. crude-oil futures erased an 11% gain to close down 1.8% at $23.55 a barrel yesterday. That move ended a 15-session streak during which oil moved at least 2% each day. It was the second-longest streak on record in data going back to 1983, trailing only a 21-day stretch that ended in January 2009, per Dow Jones Market Data.

 

April unemployment rate rose to a record 14.7%; payrolls dropped by 20.5 million as the coronavirus pandemic hit the economy. "The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it," the Labor Department said. "Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality." The number unemployed for less than five weeks hit 14.3 million, up 10.3 million and accounting for almost two-thirds of those unemployed. Labor force participation rate of 60.2%, is the lowest since January 1973 when it was 60%. Average wages jumped $1.34 to $30.01 per hour, reflecting the high level of low-earning job losses. March was revised down to -870,000 (-701,000 prior) and February was revised down to 230,000 (275,000 prior) for a net reduction of 214,000 for the two months.

    Unemployment

 

Nearly 3.17 million more Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, bringing the rolling coronavirus seven-week total to 33.483 million. The rate of new jobless claims, while still unprecedented, has been slowing in recent weeks. Estimates had called for 3.05 million claims for last week. “The only positive thing to say is that it is the fifth straight weekly slowing, but even so, the rate of decline is weaker than hoped – the consensus was 3 million,” ING Economics said in a research note.

 

     Jobless

 

Fed official warns of recession resurging if reopening efforts happen too quickly. The U.S. economy is expected to return to growth in the second half of 2020 after a difficult first half, but a recession could return in 2021 if efforts to reopen the economy too quickly cause a resurgence in Covid-19, according to Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker. “The less-optimistic scenario is that we open too quickly and see a significant second wave of the virus,” Harker said prepared in remarks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Such a situation would trigger a health catastrophe and result in a “painful economic contraction of GDP in 2021 as shutdowns are reintroduced.” Harker also suggested the Fed could expand its efforts beyond the measures they have already taken. “The Federal Reserve is thinking carefully about setting up facilities that can provide direct lending to colleges, universities, and nonprofit medical institutions,” he noted. Harker’s message overall is little different than statements from other Fed officials and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell since last week’s conclusion of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

 

The global economic outlook has continued to worsen since its April 14 forecast projecting a 3% contraction, the IMF said. That outlook assumed the pandemic fades in the second half and containment steps can be wound down. "The health crisis has not been solved," Chief Economist Gita Gopinath said. Developing nation financing needs probably will far exceed the $2.5 trillion the IMF has previously projected.

 

The major devaluation in the Brazilian real is bad news for U.S. soybean farmers. President Donald Trump previously raised anger at what at the time was a sharp downturn in the value of Brazil's currency, the real. That major devaluation continues as seen below:

 

     Brazil currency

 

First U.S. crude cargo in 6 months heading to China. The first U.S. crude shipment since December 2019 is set to arrive in China in mid-May, setting the stage for a gradual pickup in the volume of U.S. crude exports to the Asian country in June and July. This first cargo carries roughly 1.3 million barrels of Alaska North Slope crude. The first delivery will be a cargo of about 1.3 million barrels of U.S. crude, which was loaded into Alaskan Nevigator and departed from Valdez on April 25, S&P Global Platts' trade flow tracker cFlow showed. The cargo is expected to arrive at Dongjiakou Port in Eastern China Shandong province on around May 12, according to cFlow.

 

     China’s increasing oil imports suggest it is on a gradual road to economic recovery following its coronavirus epidemic. Data from the Chinese customs agency shows oil imports increased slightly from March to April, rising from 9.68 million barrels per day to 9.84 million barrels per day. There is still a while to go before a return to pre-pandemic normalcy: The import levels are more than a million barrels per day fewer than the same time last year.

 

EPA’s temporary waiver for companies to switch from summer-grade gasoline, issued March 27, has put “further downward pressure on gasoline prices,” the Energy Information Administration noted in its weekly petroleum analysis Wednesday. EPA’s waiver was intended to help companies “ensure a steady supply of gasoline” during the pandemic, to the consternation of environmental groups who cautioned the exemption would lead to increased emissions of greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants.

 

     Gasoline prices on the rise. Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said gasoline prices are already starting to rise as some companies have switched to summer blends regardless of the waiver. National gasoline prices are averaging $1.81 today, compared to $1.77 a week ago and $2.89 from a year ago. GasBuddy data shows gasoline demand was up 8.41% Wednesday from the week prior. It's the highest Wednesday demand since March 18 and up 15.67% from the lowest Wednesday that month, when most shut-downs started being implemented. According to S&P Global, the 23 states that have lifted stay-at-home orders as of this week represent 41% of U.S. gasoline demand.

 

     Outlook: “While there is still a massive glut of oil that will need to be cleared before there can be any meaningful recovery in prices, we believe that the global oil market is tentatively entering an inflection phase, where rebalancing has started," a JPMorgan tteam led by Joyce Chang wrote Thursday. Demand will bounce back over the next two to three months to outpace the commodity glut, the bank projected. Even as supply surpluses give way to deficits, demand won't reach pre-outbreak levels until November 2021 due to the coronavirus' lasting impact.

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

Update on U.S./China policy:

  • China watchers: Thursday's China purchases of U.S. corn is the start of stepped-up buys. Private exporters reported to USDA on Thursday export sales of 686,000 metric tons of corn for delivery to China. Of the total, 371,000 metric tons is for delivery during the 2019-2020 marketing year and 315,000 metric tons is for delivery during the 2020-2021 marketing year.
     
  • U.S., China hold discussions on Phase 1 agreement progress. U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held a conference call late Thursday to discuss economic and trade issues and the Phase 1 agreement between the two countries. “The parties shared updates on Covid-19 and their assessments of its effects on economic growth as well as the measures their countries are taking to provide support to their economies,” Lighthizer and Mnuchin said in a statement. Bloomberg News previously reported the talks would be held as soon as next week.

    On the Phase 1 deal, “Both sides agreed that good progress is being made on creating the governmental infrastructures necessary to make the agreement a success,” the statement said. “They also agreed that in spite of the current global health emergency, both countries fully expect to meet their obligations under the agreement in a timely manner.” The statement also indicated that the “meetings required by the agreement have been conducted via conference call and will continue on a regular basis.”

    A similarly brief recap of the discussion was reported in China, with the Xinhua News Agency reporting, “The two sides agreed that they should enhance macroeconomic and public health cooperation, create a favorable atmosphere and conditions for the implementation of the China/U.S. Phase 1 trade deal, and strive for positive outcomes. They also agreed to maintain communication and coordination.”

    The session and statements came as President Donald Trump earlier this week indicated the U.S. could end the agreement if China did not live up to its purchase comments. Wednesday, Trump indicated that in the next week or two he would be able to comment on the implementation of the trade deal. It is not clear if this session between U.S. and China officials will serve as that assessment or if some other indicators will be used as a measure. But it would seem that with the key officials involved in the deal all labeling “good progress” on implementation of the deal and no mention of any request for talks on delaying the implementation as could happen under terms of the agreement, the Phase 1 deal appears to be on solid footing from that perspective. However, rising tensions between the U.S. and China over the Covid-19 situation remain a factor relative to the Phase 1 accord. And there was also no mention of any discussions on tap relative to any Phase 2 agreement.

    Bottom line: The call alleviated tensions seen earlier in the week after President Trump threatened to "terminate" the pact if China failed to buy promised goods and services from the U.S. China is not close to meeting U.S. purchase demands as part of the Phase 1, with the coronavirus disrupting supply chains on both sides, and this is only the first-quarter of a two-year agreement. On the positive side, China has made multiple steps since the Jan. 15 signing of the Phase 1 agreement to open its markets to U.S. products, including lifting bans on some pet food products, chipping potatoes, infant formula, poultry and beef products. It has rolled back some tariffs and opened up a tariff exclusion process, while it also resumed buying U.S. pork, sorghum, corn and soybeans in February.

    U.S., China trade stats

     
  • An update posted on Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with the official Economic Daily newspaper that has been seen as a tool for disseminating Beijing’s views on trade talks to the public, said that the call was “of extraordinary significance... In the more than 10 rounds of calls between the leaders of China and the United States in the past two years, it was the first time that ‘strengthening macroeconomic and public health cooperation’ was mentioned,” according to the WeChat post. “This reflects the huge damage to the global economy caused by the spread of the new coronavirus, as well as some uncertainty in the implementation of the agreement,” it added, continuing to accuse the U.S. of possessing “a disregard for life” for blaming China in the “political interests of the minority above the interests of the majority.”

Update on implementation of CARES 1:

  • Perdue: Payment limits will be increased on CFAP payouts from initial expectations. As expected, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue capitulated to a crescendo of complains that the initial payment caps under the coming Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will be higher than initial suggestions. Perdue made the comments in interview with Brownfield Ag News (link). “We’ve adjusted those payment limits and we’ll see those when the rules come out,” he said.
     
  • The Small Business Administration has reportedly capped loans from its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to $150,000, down from $2 million, and blocked nearly all new applications. Here is where the small-business relief loans have gone by state:

    SBA state map

— U.S. food supply/industry update:

  • Vice President Pence in Iowa today. Vice President Mike Pence will come to Des Moines, Iowa today, accompanied by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). The officials will hold discussions in the morning with a faith leader on “how they are using federal and state guidelines to open their houses of worship in a safe and responsible manner,” according to a statement from Pence’s office.

    In the afternoon, Pence will be at the headquarters of grocery chain Hy-Vee for a “roundtable discussion with agriculture and food supply leaders to discuss steps being taken to ensure the food supply remains secure.” Grassley said the session will be an important discussion of “ongoing issues affecting producers and our food supply chain in Iowa and throughout the country. It’s important to hear directly from those who help feed the nation and the world.” Ernst said the sessions are key as they will be “important discussions about how we’re working to protect the health and safety of Iowa’s families and communities while getting our state back on its feet.”

     
  • Some consumers and reporters are noting the U.S. is selling hard-to-find U.S. pork to China. Similar comments are always made when the price of ag products rises to consumers and/or if they get in short supply for whatever reason.
     
  • Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said the state will no longer report on specific numbers of cases of Covid-19 at meat processing plants, describing the move as a matter of privacy.
     
  • Iowa Farm Bureau analysis shows farmer and consumer impact during lowest pork and beef processing numbers in a decade. Iowa farmers and rural communities face mounting challenges and uncertainty as disruptions to meat processing plants impacted by Covid-19 have created a bottleneck in the supply chain with major negative impacts for both farmers and consumers.

    While some meat processing plants have partially reopened, the impacts to the nation’s leading pork producing state amidst the supply chain disruption are significant. The week ending May 2 saw the lowest weekly hog slaughter in the past decade (2011-2020), and cattle slaughter also faced a decade low for a non-holiday week. Prior to the Covid-19 global pandemic, consumer demand and pork and beef production levels were at all-time highs, with Iowa farmers responsible for nearly one-third of U.S. pork production and a top-10 beef producing state.

    “Looking back just two months ago to March 1, 2020, market hog inventories were at their record high for that time,” said Sam Funk, IFBF director of ag analytics and senior economist. “U.S. and Iowa pork farmers went into this pandemic producing at record levels to meet consumer needs, but the shortened capacity to harvest pigs due to Covid-19 resulted in an excess supply of pigs, despite a very strong demand for pork protein from U.S. and global consumers.”

    The IFBF analysis shows that from the week ending March 21 to the week ending May 2, the weekly hog slaughter decreased by more than 44% or nearly 1.3 million head. The bottleneck in the supply chain coupled with a growing number of market ready hogs has depressed prices to the point where many pork farmers face significant losses in 2020 and beyond continuing an eight-year economic downtown for Iowa farmers.

    “The plight facing pork farmers today is shared by cattle farmers, another industry producing at decade high levels in March 2020 before the pandemic disrupted the supply chain,” said Funk. “Just as we observed with pork, the Covid-19 induced slow-downs and suspensions of processing facilities dropped decade high cattle production to a weekly low for all non-holiday weeks during the past decade.”

     
  • President Trump wants to see the U.S. seafood industry expand and rely less on imports, issuing an executive order (link) to cut bureaucratic red tape. He said that innovation in the aquaculture industry is hurt by “burdensome over-regulations and red tape” and small aquaculture companies must deal with an unnecessarily complex permitting process. The White House also said $300 million in funds will be made available to support fisherman and other businesses hurt by the coronavirus. The fund can be used for commercial fishing, charter for hire, aquaculture and seafood operations to address financial losses related to Covid-19. The money comes from a March economic relief measure.

Update on reopening America... and around the world:

  • Some employees don't want to come back. Virus fears, and the fact that many are earning more on unemployment than they would have at their jobs, are among the reasons some employers are having trouble recalling their workers.
     
  • Parts of Pennsylvania and North Carolina are relaxing their stay-at-home orders today.
     
  • California retailers such as clothing stores, bookstores, florists and sporting goods stores can reopen for curbside pickup starting today. Manufacturers in the state will also be allowed to restart operations.
     
  • The Andersons resumed ethanol production at plants in Albion, Mich., and Denison, Iowa, after idling all five of its ethanol facilities in March.
     
  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will allow the state's auto manufacturing facilities to reopen on Monday, making it possible for suppliers to begin restarting plants ahead of Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. The Detroit Three intend on resuming operations a week later, while the last U.S. automaker, Tesla, is turning the lights on as soon as today. The latter's Fremont plant has been idled since March 23 due to shutdowns aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19.
     
  • In Alaska, Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina — all states that have removed some restrictions — there has been little increase in the number of small businesses that are open or the amount of time people spend at work, according to an analysis by economists (link). Consumer spending has risen, but not by much more than in states that remain shut down.

    Georgia back to work

     
  • California facing huge deficit. Joblessness will hit 18% in America’s most populous state, which must grapple with a $54.3 billion deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s finance office is projecting. Link to WSJ article for details.
     
  • Shanghai Disneyland sells out. Tickets for the earliest days of Shanghai Disneyland's reopening have sold out following a three-month shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Chinese government has asked Disney to cap attendance of the re-opened park at 30% of capacity, or roughly 24,000 people, as it adjusts to new safeguards like social distancing, masks and temperature screenings. In an earnings call on Tuesday, executives said that shuttered parks would cost Disney roughly $1 billion in profits.

    In Florida, Disney will begin a phased reopening of its Disney Springs shopping, dining and entertainment complex, on May 20 in accordance with guidance from government and health officials. The rest of the Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed, including theme parks and resort hotels.

     
  • In Japan, some movie theaters and museums have reopened this week in areas less hit by the pandemic.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Global Covid-19 cases are at 3,859,559 with 269,729 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The level of cases in the US is put at 1,256,972 with deaths at 75,670.
     
  • The coronavirus has been found in the semen of infected individuals, say Chinese researchers, raising the prospect it could be sexually transmitted.
     
  • President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed coordinating their coronavirus efforts.
     
  • Shares of Moderna surged after the biotech said it received clearance by the Food and Drug Administration to proceed with phase 2 of its testing of a possible coronavirus vaccine. Moderna is finalizing the protocol for phase 3, which is expected to begin in early summer.
     
  • A new study suggests that people who have had the coronavirus may be protected from getting it again, for at least some period of time. Link to NYT article.
     
  • Nebraska has figured out how to use just one virus test on five different people.
     
  • FDA pulls approval for dozens of mask makers. More than 60 manufacturers in China lost their approval to export N95-style masks to the U.S. after federal officials said they found a number of low-quality products from those companies, the Wall Street Journal first reported.
     
  • New coronavirus cases have surged in Iran, which began easing restrictions two weeks ago and where some mosques are set to reopen for Friday prayers today.

Are farmers made whole by trade aid? The U.S. government provided payments to farmers of $10 billion in 2018 and $14.5 billion in 2019 to compensate for market losses due to retaliatory tariffs imposed on U.S. agricultural exports as part of a larger trade war. These Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments were authorized through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act. Congress allocated another $14 billion in March to the CCC to offset market losses to farmers due to Covid-19. There has been substantial debate about the magnitude and distribution of farm payments provided through the CCC.

 

     Details. In the new Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy (AEPP) article Are Farmers Made Whole by Trade Aid AAEA members Joseph Janzen and Nathan Hendricks from Kansas State University provide insights on the size and distribution of trade aid payments in 2018 and 2019. Their paper compares MFP payment rates to estimated market price declines that approximate farmer losses caused by the trade war. Link to article.

 

     Janzen says, “One unique aspect of this research is the comparisons we make across commodities. Most previous analyses have focused on soybeans because the impact of the trade war on agricultural exports have been largest for that crop. However, we show that the difference between MFP payment rates and estimated price declines due to the trade war are larger for other crops like cotton, sorghum, and wheat than for soybeans. This led to substantial variation in payment receipts across regions and individual farms.”
 

     Another aspect of the work is that it provides maps of payments relative to rental rates and payments for average-sized farms. Previous analysis has only shown maps of total payments or payments per acre. “By mapping the payment relative to the rental rate, we can adjust the payments for differences in land productivity across space. For example, we find that per-acre MFP payments in Iowa were about one-third of land rental rates in 2019, but in Alabama, MFP payments were more than double land rental rates,” said Janzen.

 

     Conclusions by the authors:

 

     “Are farmers made whole by the trade aid? By one aggregate measure, they are in the short run because total trade aid exceeds the decrease in crop prices due to the trade war estimated by most previous economic studies. For some commodities, the difference between MFP payments and estimated price impacts are). However, we also show that some farms received far less or far more than the true magnitude of their farmspecific traderelated loss because program rules are not targeted to all farm situations. For example, farms highly specialized in corn production were undercompensated for losses under MFP1. In general, MFP 2 provides more trade aid dollars to commodities and farms perceived to have received inadequate compensation under MFP 1, namely cornproducing farms, without reducing benefits to most other farms. MFP 2 dramatically increased payments to corn, but also to some other commodities such as cotton where MFP already provided aid well above the estimated price impact of tariffs. MFP 2 payments in the South often exceed cash rental rates and provide payments of more than $150,000 for an averagesize farm.

 

     In the long run, farmers may not be made whole by trade aid. Trade aid is likely to be a shortterm policy and will not compensate for longterm losses in market access that could occur even if the U.S. reaches a trade deal with China and tariffs are removed. Between 2009 and 2016, China imported roughly 41% of its soybeans from the United States according to data from FAOSTAT. China may see the U.S. as an unreliable trade partner and seek to expand trade with South America and invest in increasing production within China.16 There are also several political consequences that could be damaging for agriculture, such as challenges in the WTO and Farm Bill negotiations.
 

     “Our analysis compares trade aid to the estimated impact of the trade war and is not a comparison of farm profitability before and after 2018. While the trade war has resulted in substantial economic losses to agriculture, several other factors have also contributed to the sharp crop price declines from the relatively high prices in 2010–2014. Trade aid has provided a large infusion of cash to bolster farm balance sheets (Paulson, Featherstone, and Hadrich 2020), but not necessarily large enough to restore financial conditions to pre2018 levels. If MFP is discontinued, then farm financial conditions could worsen since the MFP payment rates appear to be larger than the impact of the trade war on commodity prices.

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE


  • U.S. to remove patriot missile batteries from Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is removing Patriot anti-missile systems from Saudi Arabia and is considering reductions to other military capabilities — marking the end, for now, of a large-scale military buildup to counter Iran, according to U.S. officials.
     
  • Cook Political Report House editor David Wasserman: May 2020 House Overview: Democrats' Advantage Grows. The noted election expert writes, “It's amazing what a difference two months and a pandemic make. Just ten weeks ago, House Republicans could barely contain their excitement at the prospect of tying 30 Democrats in Trump-won districts to self-avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and their votes to impeach President Trump. Today, Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee, and impeachment feels like ancient history.”
     
  • Farm-state senators oppose biofuel/RFS waivers. The EPA should deny governors’ requests to waive biofuel-blending mandates as it “would cause further harm to the U.S. economy” and especially “vulnerable rural communities,” 24 senators told President Donald Trump yesterday. Granting those waiver requests would exacerbate pain for the biofuel industry and farmers whose income is tied to the health of the sector, as dropping fuel demand prompted ethanol and biodiesel producers to idle plants and slash production, the senators wrote in a letter (link) led by Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). The governors of Texas, Utah and three other states last month petitioned the EPA to waive blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard, citing a spike in the cost of compliance credits as well as collapsing fuel demand.
     
  • Commerce determines duties to remain on Argentine biodiesel. The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) determined that the antidumping (AD) and countervailing (CVD) duties on imports of Argentine biodiesel will remain in place based on the conclusion of a “changed circumstances review.” In July, DOC issued a preliminary decision that would have greatly reduced the CVD rates and maintained the AD duty levels. But the agency’s final determination keeps those in place. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB), not surprisingly, reacted positively to the DOC decision. “NBB’s Fair Trade Coalition fought hard for this outcome, and we certainly appreciate Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Trump administration for supporting U.S. biodiesel producers at a critical moment,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik. “We are grateful for their consistent willingness to listen to the U.S. biodiesel industry. The DOC took the time necessary to fully evaluate the status of Argentina’s export tax regime and make the right decision.” The group also said that Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maria Cantwell (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darren LaHood (R-Ill.) were important players in the situation. Grassley also welcomed the development, taking to Twitter to say, “Happy to hear the Trump admin will continue to confront unfairly dumped & subsidized Argentinian biodiesel. This is gr8 news for Iowa’s workers in important biodiesel industry This will give hope to soybean farmers at times of very low prices.”
     
  • U.S. Department of Justice said it was dropping its criminal case against Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s first national security adviser. Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his conversations with a Russian diplomat. William Barr, the attorney-general, had assigned an outside lawyer to review the case. Minutes before the department's announcement, the lawyer who led the prosecution against Flynn withdrew from the case.

 

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