North Korea Sanctions Bill Passes – Sent to President’s Desk.  By a vote of 408-2, the House passed new North Korea sanctions legislation (H.R. 757) on Friday following the Senate’s unanimous approval Wednesday, sending the measure to President Obama’s desk for signature into law.  Once enacted, the bill would compel the U.S. Department of the Treasury to determine if North Korea should be designated as a country of “primary money laundering concern” under U.S. law.  If designated as such, North Korean banks will be cut off from direct and indirect access to the U.S. financial system.  Consequently, those foreign banks that provide financial services to Pyongyang could be sanctioned by the United States.

Customs Bill Passes – Sent to President’s Desk.  On Thursday, the Senate voted 75-20 to adopt the bipartisan conference report accompanying H.R.644, Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (“customs bill”).  The White House quickly welcomed the vote, saying the legislation “would strengthen trade enforcement at our ports and borders and improve our ability to stop evasion of our trade laws; improve transparency, accountability, and coordination in enforcement efforts; and give us unprecedented new tools to address unfair currency practices.”   While the White House noted there are provisions in the bill that it does not support – such as language that it noted contravenes longstanding U.S. policy related to Israel – the President intends to sign H.R.644 into law.

TPP – Japan’s Pork Subsidies Raised by Lawmakers.  A bipartisan group of 67 House members reportedly signed a letter addressed to Japanese Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae warning that a proposal under consideration by the Japanese Government to expand subsidies to its pork farmers presents a “very serious problem” for U.S. lawmakers, especially as they consider their positions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Meanwhile, the National Milk Producers Federation will reportedly decide in early March whether to support the TPP.

 TTIP Developments.   At the Munich Security Conference last week, Ambassador Froman again called for the United States and the European Union (EU) to push forward and work toward concluding negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  He noted that TTIP’s most distinctive advantage is the opportunity it provides to elevate global standards.

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