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    Trump Officials Gave Pandemic Loan to Trucking Company Despite Objections

    WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday released a report alleging that top Trump administration officials had awarded a $700 million pandemic relief loan to a struggling trucking company in 2020 over the objections of career officials at the Defense Department.The report, released by the Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, describes the role of corporate lobbyists during the early months of the pandemic in helping to secure government funds as trillions of dollars of relief money were being pumped into the economy. It also suggests that senior officials such as Steven Mnuchin, the former Treasury secretary, and Mark T. Esper, the former defense secretary, intervened to ensure that the trucking company, Yellow Corporation, received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds.“Today’s select subcommittee staff report reveals yet another example of the Trump administration disregarding their obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement. “Political appointees risked hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds against the recommendations of career D.O.D. officials and in clear disregard of provisions of the CARES Act intended to protect national security and American taxpayers.”The $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package that Congress passed in 2020 included a $17 billion pot of money set up by Congress and controlled by the Treasury Department to assist companies that were considered critical to national security. In July 2020, the Treasury Department announced it was giving a $700 million loan to the trucking company YRC Worldwide, which has since changed its name to Yellow.Lobbyists for Yellow had been in close touch with White House officials throughout the loan process and had discussed how the company employs Teamsters as its drivers, according to the report.Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was a “key actor” coordinating with Yellow’s lobbyists, according to correspondences that the committee obtained. The report also noted that the White House’s political operation was “almost giddy” in its effort to assist with the application.The loan raised immediate questions from watchdog groups because of the company’s close ties to the Trump administration and because it had faced years of financial and legal turmoil. The firm had lost more than $100 million in 2019 and was being sued by the Justice Department over claims that it had defrauded the federal government for a seven-year period. It recently agreed to pay $6.85 million to resolve allegations “that they knowingly presented false claims to the U.S. Department of Defense by systematically overcharging for freight carrier services and making false statements to hide their misconduct.”To qualify for a national security loan, a company needed certification by the Defense Department.According to the report, defense officials had recommended against certification because of the accusations that the company had overcharged the government. They also noted that the work that the company had been doing for the federal government — which included shipping meal kits, protective equipment and other supplies to military bases — could be replaced by other trucking firms.But the day after a defense official notified a Treasury official that the company would not be certified, one of Mr. Mnuchin’s aides set up a telephone call between him and Mr. Esper.The report indicated that Mr. Esper was not initially familiar with the status of Yellow’s certification. Before the call, aides prepared a summary of the analysis and recommendations of the department’s career officials that concluded that the certification should be rejected. Before those reached Mr. Esper, Ellen M. Lord, the department’s under secretary for acquisition and sustainment who was appointed by Mr. Trump, intervened and requested a new set of talking points that argued that the company should receive the financial support “to both support force readiness and national economic security.” Ms. Lord could not immediately be reached for comment.After the call with Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Esper certified that the company was critical to national security, and a week later the approval of the loan was announced.Mr. Mnuchin then sent an email to Mr. Meadows that included news reports praising the loan. He highlighted positive comments from James P. Hoffa, the longtime president of the Teamsters union, who according to documents in the report made a direct plea to President Donald J. Trump about the loan.Mr. Esper and Mr. Mnuchin declined to comment. A former Treasury official familiar with the process said the loan saved 25,000 union jobs during an economic crisis and prevented disruption to the national supply chain that the Defense Department, businesses and consumers had depended on. The former official said that because of the terms of the loan, taxpayers were profiting from the agreement.A spokesman for Mr. Esper said that the company met the criteria to be eligible for the loan and emphasized that the report made clear that senior staff at the Defense Department recommended that he certify it. The Treasury Department made the final decision to issue the loan, the spokesman added.The Trump InvestigationsCard 1 of 6Numerous inquiries. More

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    Republicans Wrongly Blame Biden for Rising Gas Prices

    They have pointed to the Biden administration’s policies on the Keystone XL pipeline and certain oil and gas leases, which have had little impact on prices.WASHINGTON — As gas prices hit a high this week, top Republican lawmakers took to the airwaves and the floors of Congress with misleading claims that pinned the blame on President Biden and his energy policies.Mr. Biden warned that his ban on imports of Russian oil, gas and coal, announced on Tuesday as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would cause gas prices to rise further. High costs are expected to last as long as the confrontation does.While Republican lawmakers supported the ban, they asserted that the pain at the pump long preceded the war in Ukraine. Gas price hikes, they said, were the result of Mr. Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the temporary halt on new drilling leases on public lands and the surrendering of “energy independence” — all incorrect assertions.Here’s a fact check of their claims.What Was Said“This administration wants to ramp up energy imports from Iran and Venezuela. That is the world’s largest state sponsor of terror and a thuggish South America dictator, respectively. They would rather buy from these people than buy from Texas, Alaska and Pennsylvania.”— Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, in a speech on Tuesday“Democrats want to blame surging prices on Russia. But the truth is, their out-of-touch policies are why we are here in the first place. Remember what happened on Day 1 with one-party rule? The president canceled the Keystone pipeline, and then he stopped new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters.”— Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, in a speech on Tuesday“In the four years of the Trump-Pence administration, we achieved energy independence for the first time in 70 years. We were a net exporter of energy. But from very early on, with killing the Keystone pipeline, taking federal lands off the list for exploration, sidelining leases for oil and natural gas — once again, before Ukraine ever happened, we saw rising gasoline prices.”— Former Vice President Mike Pence in an interview on Fox Business on TuesdayThese claims are misleading. The primary reason for rising gas prices over the past year is the coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to global supply and demand.“Covid changed the game, not President Biden,” said Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, which tracks gasoline prices. “U.S. oil production fell in the last eight months of President Trump’s tenure. Is that his fault? No.”“The pandemic brought us to our knees,” Mr. De Haan added.In the early months of 2020, when the virus took hold, demand for oil dried up and prices plummeted, with the benchmark price for crude oil in the United States falling to negative $37.63 that April. In response, producers in the United States and around the world began decreasing output.As pandemic restrictions loosened worldwide and economies recovered, demand outpaced supply. That was “mostly attributable” to the decision by OPEC Plus, an alliance of oil-producing countries that controls about half the world’s supply, to limit increases in production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Domestic production also remains below prepandemic levels, as capital spending declined and investors remained reluctant to provide financing to the oil industry.Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only compounded the issues.“When you throw a war on top of this, this is possibly the worst escalation you can have of this,” said Abhiram Rajendran, the head of oil market research at Energy Intelligence, an energy information company. “You’re literally pouring gasoline on general inflationary pressure.”These factors are largely out of Mr. Biden’s control, experts agreed, though they said he had not exactly sent positive signals to the oil and gas industry and its investors by vowing to reduce emissions and fossil fuel reliance.Mr. De Haan said the Biden administration was “clearly less friendly” to the industry, which may have indirectly affected investor attitudes. But overall, he said, that stance has played a “very, very small role pushing gas prices up.”President Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian oil in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.Tom Brenner for The New York TimesMr. Rajendran said the Biden administration had emphasized climate change issues while paying lip service to energy security.“There has been a pretty stark miscalculation of the amount of supply we would need to keep energy prices at affordable levels,” he said. “It was taken for granted. There was too much focus on the energy transition.”But presidents, Mr. Rajendran said, “have very little impact on short-term supply.”“The key relationship to watch is between companies and investors,” he said.It is true that the Biden administration is in talks with Venezuela and Iran over their oil supplies. But the administration is also urging American companies to ramp up production — to the dismay of climate change activists and contrary to Republican lawmakers’ suggestions that the White House is intent on handcuffing domestic producers.Speaking before the National Petroleum Council in December, Jennifer M. Granholm, the energy secretary, told oil companies to “please take advantage of the leases that you have, hire workers, get your rig count up.”Understand Rising Gas Prices in the U.S.Card 1 of 5A steady rise. More

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    Why Companies Struggled to Navigate Olympics Sponsorships

    The debacle over Olympic sponsorship shows how the U.S.-China relationship has turned into a minefield for companies trying to do business in both countries.WASHINGTON — Companies usually shell out for Olympic sponsorship because it helps their business and reflects well on their brands. But this year, with the Olympics in Beijing, Procter & Gamble paid even more to try to prevent any negative fallout from being associated with China’s repressive and authoritarian government.The company, one of 13 “worldwide Olympic partners” that make the global sports competition possible, hired Washington lobbyists last year to successfully defeat legislation that would have barred sponsors of the Beijing Games from selling their products to the U.S. government. The provision would have blocked Pampers, Tide, Pringles and other Procter & Gamble products from military commissaries, to protest companies’ involvement in an event seen as legitimizing the Chinese government.“This amendment would punish P.&G. and the Olympic movement, including U.S. athletes,” Sean Mulvaney, the senior director for global government relations at Procter & Gamble, wrote in an email to congressional offices in August.Some of the world’s biggest companies are caught in an uncomfortable situation as they attempt to straddle a widening political gulf between the United States and China: What is good for business in one country is increasingly a liability in the other.China is the world’s biggest consumer market, and for decades, Chinese and American business interests have described their economic cooperation as a “win-win relationship.” But gradually, as China’s economic and military might have grown, Washington has taken the view that a win for China is a loss for the United States.The decision to locate the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing has turned sponsorship, typically one of the marketing industry’s most prestigious opportunities, into a minefield.Companies that have sponsored the Olympics have attracted censure from politicians and human rights groups, who say such contracts imply tacit support of atrocities by the Chinese Communist Party, including human rights violations in Xinjiang, censorship of the media and mass surveillance of dissidents.“One thing our businesses, universities and sports leagues don’t seem to fully understand is that, to eat at the C.C.P.’s trough, you will have to turn into a pig,” Yaxue Cao, editor of ChinaChange.org, a website that covers civil society and human rights, told Congress this month.The tension is playing out in other areas as well, including with regards to Xinjiang, where millions of ethnic minorities have been detained, persecuted or forced into working in fields and factories. In June, the United States will enact a sweeping law that will expand restrictions on Xinjiang, giving the United States power to block imports made with any materials sourced from that region.Multinational firms that are trying to comply with these new import restrictions have found themselves facing costly backlashes in China, which denies any accusations of genocide. H&M, Nike and Intel have all blundered into public relations disasters for trying to remove Xinjiang from their supply chains.Explore the Games Propaganda Machine: China has used a variety of tools such as bots and fake social media accounts to promote a vision of the Games that is free of controversy.Aussie Pride: Australia has won more medals than ever before at the 2022 Winter Games. Could the country turn into a winter sports wonderland?At High Speed: The ‘Snow Dream’ train line, built to serve the Winter Olympics, has been a source of excitement — and a considerable expense.Reporter’s View: A typical day in Beijing for our reporters may include a 5 a.m. alarm, six buses, a pizza lunch and lots of live-blogging. For some, it’s the first time back in China in a while.Harsher penalties could be in store. Companies that try to sever ties with Xinjiang may run afoul of China’s anti-sanctions law, which allows the authorities to crack down on firms that comply with foreign regulations they see as discriminating against China.Beijing has also threatened to put companies that cut off supplies to China on an “unreliable entity list” that could result in penalties, though to date the list doesn’t appear to have any members.“Companies are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to complying with U.S. and Chinese law,” said Jake Colvin, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents companies that do business internationally.President Biden, while less antagonistic than his predecessor, has maintained many of the tough policies put in place by President Donald J. Trump, including hefty tariffs on Chinese goods and restrictions on exports of sensitive technology to Chinese firms.The Biden administration has shown little interest in forging trade deals to help companies do more business abroad. Instead, it is recruiting allies to ramp up pressure on China, including by boycotting the Olympics, and promoting huge investments in manufacturing and scientific research to compete with Beijing. The pressures are not only coming from the United States. Companies are increasingly facing a complicated global patchwork of export restrictions and data storage laws, including in the European Union. Chinese leaders have begun pursuing “wolf warrior” diplomacy, in which they are trying to teach other countries to think twice before crossing China, said Jim McGregor, chairman of APCO Worldwide’s greater China region.He said his company was telling clients to “try to comply with everybody, but don’t make a lot of noise about it — because if you’re noisy about complying in one country, the other country will come after you.”Some companies are responding by moving sensitive activities — like research that could trigger China’s anti-sanctions law, or audits of Xinjiang operations — out of China, said Isaac Stone Fish, the chief executive of Strategy Risks, a consultancy.An NBC production crew in Beijing. An effort to prevent Olympic sponsors, like NBC, from doing business with the U.S. government was cut from a defense bill last year.Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York TimesOthers, like Cisco, have scaled back their operations. Some have left China entirely, though usually not on terms they would choose. For example, Micron Technology, a chip-maker that has been a victim of intellectual property theft in China, is closing down a chip design team in Shanghai after competitors poached its employees.“Some companies are taking a step back and realizing that this is perhaps more trouble than it’s worth,” Mr. Stone Fish said.But many companies insist that they can’t be forced to choose between two of the world’s largest markets. Tesla, which counts China as one of its largest markets, opened a showroom in Xinjiang last month.“We can’t leave China, because China represents in some industries up to 50 percent of global demand and we have intense, deep supply and sales relationships,” said Craig Allen, the president of the U.S.-China Business Council.Companies see China as a foothold to serve Asia, Mr. Allen said, and China’s $17 trillion economy still presents “some of the best growth prospects anywhere.”“Very few companies are leaving China, but all are feeling that it’s risk up and that they need to be very careful so as to meet their legal obligations in both markets,” he said.American politicians of both parties are increasingly bent on forcing companies to pick a side.“To me, it’s completely appropriate to make these companies choose,” said Representative Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican who proposed the bill that would have prevented Olympic sponsors from doing business with the U.S. government.Mr. Waltz said participation in the Beijing Olympics sent a signal that the West was willing to turn a blind eye to Chinese atrocities for short-term profits.The amendment was ultimately cut out of a defense-spending bill last year after active and aggressive lobbying by Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Intel, NBC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, Mr. Waltz said.Procter & Gamble’s lobbying disclosures show that, between April and December, it spent more than $2.4 million on in-house and outside lobbyists to try to sway Congress on a range of tax and trade issues, including the Beijing Winter Olympics Sponsor Accountability Act.Lobbying disclosures for Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Comcast, the parent company of NBC, also indicate the companies lobbied on issues related to the Olympics or “sports programming” last year.Procter & Gamble and Intel declined to comment. Coca-Cola said it had explained to lawmakers that the legislation would hurt American military families and businesses. NBC and the Chamber of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.Many companies have argued they are sponsoring this year’s Games to show support for the athletes, not China’s system of government.In a July congressional hearing, where executives from Coca-Cola, Intel, Visa and Airbnb were also grilled about their sponsorship, Mr. Mulvaney said Procter & Gamble was using its partnership to encourage the International Olympic Committee to incorporate human rights principles into its oversight of the Games.“Corporate sponsors are being a bit unfairly maligned here,” Anna Ashton, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said in an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.Companies had signed contracts to support multiple iterations of the Games, and had no say over the host location, she said. And the funding they provide goes to support the Olympics and the athletes, not the Chinese government.“Sponsorship has hardly been an opportunity for companies this time around,” she said. More

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    Biden Administration Says China Failed Trade Commitments

    In a new report, the administration detailed China’s violations of promises made both to the World Trade Organization and under a 2020 trade deal with the U.S.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration criticized China in a new report released Wednesday morning for failing to uphold a wide range of trade commitments, including promises it had made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and others in a trade deal signed with the Trump administration in 2020.In its annual assessment of China’s compliance with its obligations to the W.T.O., the Office of the United States Trade Representative excoriated the Chinese government for flouting the global trade body’s rules and its transparent, market-oriented approach. Instead, China expanded its state-led approach to its economy and trade, causing serious harm to workers and businesses around the world, particularly in industries targeted by its industrial plans, Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said in a statement.“China has not moved to embrace the market-oriented principles on which the W.T.O. and its rules are based, despite the representations that it made when it joined 20 years ago,” Ms. Tai said.Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, accused China of failing to embrace the market-oriented principles of the World Trade Organization, which it joined in 2001.Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThe report also criticized the trade deal signed by the Trump administration, in one of the first written assessments the Biden administration has provided of China’s progress toward the terms set out in that deal.The Biden administration has said it intends to hold China to the terms of that agreement, while also calling for a different approach to trade. But it has not clarified just how assertively it would enforce a deal it has described as fundamentally flawed.The report said that the deal had failed to address the most fundamental concerns the United States has with China’s approach to trade, and that the United States had serious concerns with China’s implementation of several of its commitments. Those included pledges to purchase U.S. goods and services, as well as promised reforms related to agriculture, particularly biotechnology, and an assessment China promised to conduct on the use in swine and cattle of ractopamine, a feed additive widely used in the United States that Beijing has banned.The United States has raised concerns about China’s progress during regular meetings between officials at various levels of government, the report said.Data released this month showed that China fell far short of satisfying commitments it had made in the trade deal signed with the Trump administration to purchase an additional $200 billion of goods and services by the end of last year. The Biden administration said its patience with China was wearing thin, but it has not yet clarified what action, if any, it would take in response.The report echoed many of the criticisms of China issued under the prior administration, including spelling out the World Trade Organization’s shortcomings in disciplining China’s trade violations and calling for measures to take on China outside the organization.But the report also appeared to take issue with the Trump administration’s attempt to decouple from China, arguing that the United States needed to invest in American workers and infrastructure to compete with China in an integrated global economy.“We cannot build a wall between the United States and China and assume that it will address the problems posed by China,” the report said.Beyond efforts at the World Trade Organization, the United States was pursuing several strategies to hold China to account, the report said. They included bilateral dialogues with China, including over its progress toward the commitments of the 2020 trade deal; cooperation with allies like Japan and Europe; and efforts to repurpose and expand domestic trade tools, like using tariffs to encourage companies to reduce their carbon emissions.“It is also apparent that existing trade tools need to be strengthened, and new trade tools need to be forged,” the report said. “China pursues unfair policies and practices that were not contemplated when many of the U.S. trade statutes were drafted decades ago, and we are therefore exploring ways in which to update our trade tools to counter them.” More

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    Biden’s China Dilemma: How to Enforce Trump’s Trade Deal

    The Biden administration must decide whether to enforce a Trump-era trade deal that has not fulfilled its promise.WASHINGTON — When he assumed the White House, President Biden promised to take a different approach to China than his predecessor, saying that the Trump administration’s trade war had hurt American farmers and consumers, and failed to address significant concerns about China’s economic practices.But nearly a year into his presidency, Mr. Biden is stuck with ensuring that China lives up to the promises it made to President Donald J. Trump in a trade deal signed in January 2020.China is expected to fall far short of the trade deal’s target for purchasing an additional $200 billion of American products, including energy, services, food and manufactured goods, over the course of 2020 and 2021.According to tracking by Chad P. Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, China is on pace to fulfill only 60 percent of the purchasing commitments it made in the trade deal by the end of 2022, after buying fewer airplanes, automobiles, crude oil and other American goods than anticipated.Chinese officials, in conversations with their American counterparts, have cited the global pandemic, factory stoppages and shipping disruptions as reasons for the shortfalls, according to people familiar with the talks. It is unclear how receptive the Biden administration is to that argument or whether the president will take action against China for not living up to its end of the deal.The text of the trade deal calls for further consultations if an “unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations.” It also allows the United States to take “remedial measures,” like imposing tariffs, if China violates the agreement and the governments cannot reach a consensus on how to move forward.But many U.S. businesses and consumer groups have been calling for the Biden administration to reduce the tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed on Chinese goods, which have driven up costs for American companies and consumers. The United States already has tariffs on roughly two-thirds of Chinese imports. Expanding tariffs to other goods could place a heavier burden on households and businesses at a time when prices are already rising.In a discussion with reporters last month, Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative, said that China’s “performance hasn’t been perfect, so what do we do about it?”“That’s the million dollar question. That’s the whole point of engaging with China right now.”“We’re working on it,” she added.The decision illustrates the perils for Mr. Biden of succeeding a president with a penchant for one-upmanship and a love of big round numbers.Mr. Trump received political credit, at least from his supporters, for signing the deal, which was arguably the most economic concessions the United States had secured from the Chinese government since it joined the World Trade Organization 20 years ago. But it is Mr. Biden and his deputies who now must decide the path forward — and incur the political risk — when the deal’s terms are not fully met.Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, declined to discuss the negotiations, but said in a statement that the economic and trade relationships between the two countries were “essentially mutually beneficial.”“Issues in bilateral economic and trade relations should be properly dealt with in the spirit of mutual respect and equal-footed consultation,” he added.Trade experts say it’s not particularly surprising that China has failed to meet such ambitious purchasing targets. According to Mr. Trump’s own telling, some of the targets in his “big beautiful monster” of a trade deal with China were basically made up.Discussing the origin of the agricultural targets in a cabinet meeting in October 2019, Mr. Trump said he had pushed for China to commit to between $60 billion and $70 billion a year in farm purchases, before settling on a figure of between $40 billion and $50 billion.“My people had $20 billion done, and I said, ‘I want more.’ They said, ‘The farmers can’t handle it.’ I said, ‘Tell them to buy larger tractors. It’s very simple,’” Mr. Trump said to laughter.“I want the farmers to come tell me, ‘Sir, we can’t produce that much,’” he added.When Mr. Trump signed the trade deal with China in January 2020, those estimates became enshrined as the word of the U.S. government. And though Mr. Biden and his deputies have criticized the trade deal for failing to address many of the most pressing trade issues that the United States has with China, they have since promised to uphold it.In a call last month with President Xi Jinping of China, President Biden underscored the importance of China fulfilling the commitments, and his desire for “real progress” in conversations between Ms. Tai and her counterpart, Vice Premier Liu He, a senior administration official said.Both Chinese and American officials have stressed that purchasing commitments are just one component of the trade deal. The deal also contained promises to streamline China’s import process for U.S. farm goods, ramp up penalties for intellectual property infringement and ease barriers for American financial firms doing business in China, among other reforms.Ms. Tai has said she is pressing Chinese leaders on those other commitments, as well as on important trade issues that were not covered in the deal, like China’s use of industrial subsidies to bolster its industries.But she called the trade deal, which is often referred to as Phase 1, “a living agreement.”“This is the commitment that we bring as an administration to the agreements that the United States enters into with our trading partners, which is, yes, we are holding them accountable,” Ms. Tai said.China has come closest to satisfying its target commitments on agriculture, fulfilling 83 percent of the purchases it was expected to have made by the end of October under the deal, according to tracking by Mr. Bown.Corn and pork sales to China have been particularly strong, after an epidemic of African swine fever decimated China’s pig herds. But exports of American soybeans, lobster and other products appear to have fallen short, according to Mr. Bown’s estimates.For manufactured goods, including Boeing airplanes, cars, medical instruments, pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery, China had purchased only 60 percent of what it promised to buy by the end of October, Mr. Bown said. In that category, aircraft and automotive sales have disappointed, in part because of the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max airplane. But China’s purchases of American semiconductors and medical products to fight coronavirus, which are also included in that category, have been stronger.At the end of October, China had purchased 37 percent of the energy products it should have purchased under the deal, following slow sales of crude oil, coal and refined energy products. But Mr. Bown said the targets in that particular sector were “astronomically large.”China has also made commitments on services, but Mr. Bown said the United States did not publish clear monthly data on services exports, making Beijing’s progress difficult to evaluate.“Even from the earliest months of the phase one agreement, China was not on track,” Mr. Bown said. “Obviously the pandemic started early in 2020, but a big chunk of it was just that the targets were unrealistic to begin with.”The Biden administration has sought to de-emphasize the purchases, saying they are developing other more important trade policies related to China.Several trade agreements with Europe that were announced in recent months show how the administration plans to pursue its China trade strategy beyond Mr. Trump’s deal. American and European leaders have announced that they plan to strengthen their trade ties in technology, civil aircraft and steel, setting new standards that benefit free-market democracies and welcoming more like-minded countries to join their trading club.Last week, the Biden administration announced a partnership with several other countries meant to control the export of sensitive technologies to authoritarian countries, and encourage other like-minded countries to adopt sanctions for corruption and human rights offenses.Daniel H. Rosen, a founding partner at Rhodium Group, a research group that focuses on China, said the U.S.-China trade deal was serving as a foundation for the relationship while the Biden administration works on recruiting allies to press for more important structural changes to China’s economy.“They’re trying to work with it, this thing that they inherited,” he said. More

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    Biden Rolls Back Trump's Metal Tariffs On European Union

    The deal, which comes as U.S. and E.U. allies meet in Rome, will keep some trade protections in place in a nod to metalworking unions that supported President Biden.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced on Saturday that it had reached a deal to roll back tariffs on European steel and aluminum, an agreement that officials said would lower costs on goods like cars and washing machines, reduce carbon emissions, and help get supply chains moving again.The deal, which comes as President Biden and other world leaders meet at the Group of 20 summit in Rome, is aimed at easing trans-Atlantic trade tensions that had worsened under former President Donald J. Trump, whose administration initially imposed the tariffs. Mr. Biden has made clear he wants to repair relations with the European Union, but the agreement also appears carefully devised to avoid alienating U.S. labor unions and manufacturers that have supported Mr. Biden.It leaves some protections in place for the American steel and aluminum industry, by transforming the current 25 percent tariff on European steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum into a so-called tariff rate quota, an arrangement in which higher levels of imports are met with higher duties.The agreement will put an end to retaliatory tariffs that the European Union had imposed on American products including orange juice, bourbon and motorcycles. It will also avert additional tariffs on American products that were set to go into effect on Dec. 1.“We fully expect this agreement will provide relief in the supply chain and drive down cost increases as we lift the 25 percent tariffs and increase volume,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.Ms. Raimondo, in a briefing with reporters, said the deal had allowed the United States and European Union to establish a framework to take carbon intensity into account when producing steel and aluminum, which could allow for them to manufacture “cleaner” products than the ones produced in China.A steel mill in Farrell, Pa. A new accord is said to allow the E.U. to ship 3.3 million metric tons of steel into the U.S. duty-free and impose a 25 percent tariff after that.Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters“China’s lack of environmental standards is part of what drives down their costs, but it’s also a major contributor to climate change,” Ms. Raimondo said.The tariffs were imposed on dozens of countries, including those in the European Union, after the Trump administration determined that foreign metals posed a national security threat. Mr. Biden vowed to work more closely with Europe, which he has described as a partner in efforts to combat climate change and compete against authoritarian economies like China. But he has been under pressure from American metal manufacturers and labor unions not to entirely remove the trade barriers, which have helped protect the domestic industry from a glut of cheap foreign metal.The deal marks the final step for the Biden administration in dismantling Mr. Trump’s Trans-Atlantic trade war. In June, U.S. and European officials announced an end to a 17-year dispute over aircraft subsidies given to Airbus and Boeing. In late September, the United States and Europe announced a new partnership for trade and technology, and earlier this month they came to an agreement on global minimum taxes.Under the new terms, the European Union will be allowed to ship 3.3 million metric tons of steel annually into the United States duty-free, while any volume above that would be subject to a 25 percent tariff, according to people familiar with the arrangement. Products that were granted exclusions from the tariffs this year would also temporarily be exempt.The agreement will also place restrictions on products that are finished in Europe but use steel from China, Russia, South Korea and other countries. To qualify for duty-free treatment, steel products must be entirely made in the European Union.Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said that the deal removed “one of the biggest bilateral irritants in the U.S.-E.U. relationship.”Metal unions in the United States praised the deal, which they said would limit European exports to historically low levels. The United States imported 4.8 million metric tons of European steel in 2018, a level that fell to 3.9 million in 2019 and 2.5 million in 2020.In a statement, Thomas M. Conway, president of the United Steelworkers International, said the arrangement would “ensure U.S. domestic industries remain competitive and able to meet our security and infrastructure needs.”Mark Duffy, the chief executive of the American Primary Aluminum Association, said that the deal would “maintain the effectiveness” of Mr. Trump’s tariffs, “while allowing us to support continued investment in the U.S. primary aluminum industry and create more American aluminum jobs.”He said the arrangement would support the American aluminum industry by limiting duty-free imports to historically low levels.Other countries remain subject to U.S. tariffs or quotas, including Britain, Japan and South Korea. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has opposed the metal tariffs, said the deal did not go far enough.Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the agreement would offer “some relief for American manufacturers suffering from soaring steel prices and shortages, but further action is needed.” “The U.S. should drop the unfounded charge that metal imports from the U.K., Japan, Korea and other close allies represent a threat to our national security — and drop the tariffs and quotas as well,” he said.Katie Rogers More

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    Missing Foreign Workers Add to Hiring Challenges

    Fewer foreign people have been able to work in the U.S. amid the coronavirus, leaving a hole in the potential labor force.Neha Mahajan was a television journalist in India before her husband’s job moved her family to the United States in 2008. She spent years locked out of the labor market, confined by what she calls the “gilded cage” of her immigration status — one that the pandemic placed her back into.Ms. Mahajan started working after an Obama administration rule change in 2015 allowed people on spousal visas to hold jobs, and she took a new job in business development at an immigration law firm early in 2021. But processing delays tied to the pandemic caused her work authorization to expire in July, forcing her to take leave.“It just gets to you emotionally and drains you out,” said Ms. Mahajan, 39, who lives in Scotch Plains, N.J.Last week brought reprieve, if only temporarily. She received approval documents for her renewed work authorization, enabling her to return to the labor force. But a process that should have taken three months stretched to 10, leaving her sidelined all summer. And because her visa is linked to her husband’s, she will need to reapply for authorization again in December when his visa comes up for renewal.Hundreds of thousands of foreign workers have gone missing from the labor market as the global coronavirus pandemic drags on, leaving holes in white-collar professions like the one Ms. Mahajan works in and in more service-oriented jobs in beach towns and at ski resorts. Newcomers and applicants for temporary visas were initially limited by policy changes under former President Donald J. Trump, who used a series of executive actions to slow many types of legal immigration. Then pandemic-era travel restrictions and bureaucratic backlogs caused immigration to drop precipitously, threatening a long-term loss of talent and economic potential.Some of those missing would-be employees will probably come and work as travel restrictions lift and as visa processing backlogs clear, as Ms. Mahajan’s example suggests. But the recent immigration lost to the pandemic is likely to leave a permanent hole. Goldman Sachs estimated in research this month that the economy was short 700,000 temporary visa holders and permanent immigrant workers, and that perhaps 300,000 of those people would never come to work in the United States.Employers consistently complain that they are struggling to hire, and job openings exceed the number of people actively looking for work, even though millions fewer people are working compared with just before the pandemic. The slump in immigration is one of the many reasons for the disconnect. Companies dependent on foreign workers have found that waves of infections and processing delays at consulates are keeping would-be employees in their home countries, or stuck in America but simply unable to work.“Employers are having to wait a long time to get their petitions approved, and renewals are not being processed in a timely manner,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration lawyer who teaches at Cornell Law School. “It’s going to take a long time for them to work through the backlog.”Worker inflows had already slowed sharply before the pandemic, the result of a crackdown by the Trump administration that made it harder for foreign workers, refugees and migrant family members to enter the United States. But the pandemic took that decline and accelerated it dramatically: Overall visa issuance dropped by 4.7 million last year.Many of those visas would have gone to short-term visitors and tourists — people who likely will come back as travel restrictions lift. But hundreds of thousands of the visas would have gone to workers. Without them, some employers have been left struggling.Guests at Penny Fernald’s inn on Mount Desert Island in Maine had to swing by the front desk to pick up towels this summer. Turndown service was limited, because only one of the four foreign housekeepers Ms. Fernald would employ in a typical summer could make it through a consulate and into the country this year.Vacationers who wanted a reimagined Waldorf salad at Salt & Steel, a nearby restaurant, needed to call ahead for reservations and hope it wasn’t Sunday, when the short-staffed restaurant was closed.“This was the busiest season Bar Harbor has ever seen, and we turned people away nightly,” said Bobby Will, the chef and co-owner of Salt & Steel.He usually hires a few foreign workers who perform day jobs for other local businesses then work for him at night. This year, that was basically impossible. He found himself down six of 18 workers. He modified dishes to make them easier to plate — a lobster risotto with roasted chanterelles and hand-placed garnished became a seafood cassoulet — but labor-saving innovations were not enough of a fix. He ultimately had to close on Mondays, too, and he estimates that he missed out on $6,500 to $8,000 in sales per night.“It’s just been extremely difficult for Bar Harbor,” he said of his town, a summer tourism hot-spot nestled between Frenchman Bay and Acadia National Park.Many immigrants are missing from the labor market, causing staffing shortages both in white-collar professions and in more service-oriented jobs in vacation spots like Old Orchard Beach, Maine.Tristan Spinski for The New York TimesThe Biden administration lifted a Trump-era pandemic ban on legal immigration in February, and the number of foreign nationals coming into the United States on visas has been recovering this year. Monthly data show a nascent but incomplete rebound.But some visa categories that weren’t deemed high priority, including many temporary work authorizations, have been waiting long months for approval. Travel limitations tied to the pandemic have kept other foreign workers at home.The State Department reported that as of September, nearly half a million people remained in its immigrant visa backlog, compared with roughly 61,000 on average in 2019..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}It is not clear what the 2020 drop in immigration and the slow crawl back to normalcy will mean for the country’s labor pool going forward. The Goldman Sachs estimate that the U.S. is short 700,000 foreign workers was based on a rough methodology. The Congressional Budget Office estimated late last year that 2.5 million fewer people would immigrate in the 2020s than it had estimated before the pandemic. Immigration tends to build on itself as legal permanent residents bring in family members, so this decade’s decline is expected to lead to another 840,000 fewer immigrants between 2031 and 2040.The “reduction occurs in part because of travel restrictions and reduced visa-processing capabilities related to the pandemic,” the office wrote in its September 2020 long-term budget outlook.Either number amounts to a relatively small sliver of the American work force, which is today 161 million people strong. But from an economic perspective — and from the viewpoint of many American businesses — the timing could hardly be worse. America’s population is aging, and fertility rates have been declining. Work force growth in recent years has been heavily driven by immigrants and their children. Fewer immigrants means fewer future workers.Unless businesses can figure out how to produce more with fewer people, a future in which the nation’s working-age population grows more slowly means that the economy is likely to have less room for expansion.The pandemic immigration slump isn’t the cause of that economic sclerosis, but it could cause the condition to progress faster.While millions of Americans remain out of work and potentially available for jobs, employers say hiring has been complicated by pandemic aftershocks. Some households lack child care or are afraid of virus resurgence. Others are rethinking careers in backbreaking industries after a perspective-shifting collective public health trauma. Often immigrants work jobs that struggle to attract native workers.Some companies are reluctant to pay enough to attract locals. Ms. Fernald did receive some applications for housekeeping positions, but she pays $16.50 per hour and the applicants had hoped for $20 to $23.Even for those who were willing to pay what would-be laborers demand — Mr. Will paid cooks $22 per hour and guaranteed 10 hours a week in overtime — it was difficult to make up for missing local exchange student workers and temporary seasonal employees from abroad. He’s hoping hiring will be easier in 2022.“Honestly, I don’t know what to expect,” he said.Ms. Mahajan in New Jersey offered a glint of hope that some sort of normalcy could return, but also apprehension that it will not.“I couldn’t believe it — I was like, ‘Wow,’” she said of the moment she received her approval. But the relief may be short-lived since her visa is inextricably linked to her husband’s lapsing one.“Even before summer, I could be back in the same situation,” she said. “This is like an infinite rut.” More

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    U.S. Renews Its Support for the World Trade Organization

    Trade Representative Katherine Tai outlined her vision for the battered World Trade Organization, saying the U.S. wanted to re-engage and address working people’s concerns.Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, affirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting the World Trade Organization in a speech in Geneva on Thursday but said further reforms were needed to restore the global trade body’s relevance to working people.Ms. Tai addressed the organization’s shortcomings, criticizing some of its processes as “unwieldy and bureaucratic” and saying the international group had “rightfully been accused of existing in a ‘bubble,’ insulated from reality and slow to recognize global developments.”But she said the United States was committed to strengthening the organization, which critics say the Trump administration had actively worked to undermine. And she argued that the W.T.O. had a crucial role to play in steering countries through the pandemic and confronting challenges like rising inequality and climate change.“The reality of the institution today does not match the ambition of its goals,” said Ms. Tai, who spoke from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. However, she added, “We all recognize the importance of the W.T.O., and we all want it to succeed.”The speech marked a putative return of the United States to its traditional leadership role at the beleaguered trade body, which functions based on consensus from its 164 member countries. It was the first time a United States trade representative had visited the W.T.O.’s offices in Geneva in half a decade.It was also a personal return to Geneva for Ms. Tai, who litigated trade cases on behalf of the United States at the World Trade Organization earlier in her career.Ms. Tai’s visit comes at a crucial moment for the global trade body, which is struggling to make headway on issues ranging from global vaccine distribution to rules for the fishing industry as it prepares for a major ministerial conference beginning Nov. 30.The 25-year-old World Trade Organization was designed as a forum for trade negotiations as well as for settling trade disputes between its members. It also plays an important role in monitoring and publishing data about global trade. But under pressure from an expanding membership of countries, including nonmarket economies like China, it has struggled to produce new trade agreements and resolve disputes in a timely manner.The Trump administration criticized the W.T.O. for its failure to police Chinese trade practices and its limits on how the United States protects its workers, among other issues. Many other member countries had accused the United States in recent years of abandoning its traditional role as one of the organization’s greatest supporters.Jake Colvin, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents major multinational companies, said it was “fundamentally encouraging to hear Ambassador Tai reaffirm the continued commitment of the administration to the W.T.O.”“That’s important and can’t be taken for granted,” he said. “I would agree with her, and the administration would agree with her, that the organization needs to show that it’s capable of addressing challenges and it’s not just trade for trade’s sake.”Richard E. Baldwin, a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, posed questions to Ms. Tai after her speech. He was enthusiastic about the departure from the Trump administration’s harsh critiques. “I haven’t heard optimism and W.T.O. said in the same sentence in a long time,” he said.In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Thursday, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director general of the W.T.O., said that despite a bruising trade war, discussion of decoupling the United States and China, and pandemic-related shortages, global trade was actually at historic highs and the multilateral trading system continued to strongly benefit the global economy.“To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of multilateral trade are greatly exaggerated,” she said. “Warnings of deglobalization are not matched by the evidence, not yet, at least.”As the organization prepares for its meeting next month, W.T.O. members are divided over whether to grant a waiver that allows countries to bypass the intellectual property protections pharmaceutical companies have on their products to more quickly produce and distribute coronavirus vaccines to lower-income nations.Backed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the Biden administration has stated its support for the waiver. But it continues to face criticism, both from supporters who say the administration isn’t doing enough to provide vaccine access to poorer countries, and from the business community, which worries about the long-run effects of the erosion of intellectual property rights.On Thursday, Ms. Tai countered accusations of the administration’s “silence” on the issue by saying the United States was working actively behind the scenes. She compared the administration’s efforts to a duck sailing on a pond where “underneath the surface the duck’s legs are going very, very fast.”Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said “there seems to be a will to find a compromise” that would allow developing countries to have access to vaccines without discouraging research and development. “That solution is within reach,” she said, adding that more than 100 developing countries were proponents of the waiver.The World Trade Organization is also under pressure in the coming weeks to conclude a two-decades-long negotiation over curtailing harmful subsidies that countries give to their fishing industries.The Biden administration has made a last-minute proposal to add provisions combating the use of forced labor on fishing boats, provisions that many countries say they support in principle but view as complicating the negotiations in the final hour.Ms. Tai said the United States had made the forced labor proposal a way of bringing “trade policy back to thinking through the impacts on working people” as well as sustainability, and that the United States was hopeful to reach consensus on the issue.Trade can be “a force for good that encourages a race to the top,” she said.Ms. Tai also suggested that the United States was ready to engage on an intense disagreement over the organization’s system for settling disputes, but that further negotiations would be needed.The W.T.O. appellate body, the final stop in the organization’s system for settling trade disputes, has been defunct since 2019, when the Trump administration refused to appoint new officials. That refusal protested a system that the White House once said had long ceased to function as its designers intended.Ms. Tai offered similar criticisms of the dispute settlement system, saying that the W.T.O. had become a forum for “prolonged, expensive and contentious” litigation, and that it was also having a chilling effect on finalizing new negotiations.She cited as an example a standoff between the United States and Europe on subsidies given to aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus. It resulted in 16 years of litigation at the W.T.O. and was only resolved through outside talks in June.But she distanced herself from the Trump administration’s more combative approach at the W.T.O., emphasizing that the United States was eager to engage and work toward solutions.“If you will listen to us, we will listen to you, and let’s start the reform process from there,” she said. More