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2021 President’s Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report: What does that mean to you?

By Ngosong Fonkem

The past four years of “America First” trade policy under the Trump Administration has been one of the most unpredictable periods in international trade history. After an exhausting post-election transition battle, President Biden was finally sworn into office on January 20, 2021, becoming the Forty-Sixth president of the United States. As things begin to settle down to normality under a new administration, an area of significant interest for the business community remains: What will US trade policy look like under a new Biden-Harris Administration in the coming four years or possibly eight years? Given that the Biden-Harris Administration is still in its infancy and is still formulating its trade policy, the most reasonable and appropriate method for forecasting what U.S. trade policy focus is likely to be in the new administration is to review and analyze the recently released “2021 Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report,”[1] which was published on March 1, 2021, by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”).

Typically, the U.S. government, through the USTR, on an annual basis publishes two seminal reports detailing its trade policy focus for the coming year: (1) The National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (“NTE”); and (2) Trade Policy Agenda (“TPA”) report. Whereas the NTE addresses the status of foreign trade and investment barriers to U.S. exports around the world, the TPA reports on progress and problems from the previous year and lays out U.S. policy focus and agenda for the coming year. These reports provide a window into the U.S. government’s views and priorities with respect to its trade policies moving forward, its trade relationship with its major trading partners, and further sheds light on the U.S. government’s potential trade actions against them. The information obtained from these reports provides a starting point for brainstorming strategic solutions for managing potential trade risks. With regard to the March 1, 2021, TPA report, two key areas standout: (1) Tackling the Covid-19 Pandemic; and (2) Countering China’s Influence through the use of the tools of trade and “values” based appeal.

Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic

First, a major aspect of the report focuses on the administration’s effort to help the U.S. recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and “build back better.” Specifically, the report makes clear that the COVID-19 pandemic remains the greatest threat to the U.S. economy and the president’s domestic policies will first and foremost address stopping the spread of the virus and safely re-opening the economy. The agenda also encompasses a commitment to long-term investments to strengthen domestic production of essential medical equipment and an expansion of industrial capacity to meet future public health crises.

Countering China Through The Tools of Trade

As in the previous administration’s policy of confronting China using tariffs and other tools of trade, the report emphasizes continuity, except that the Biden Administration shall commit to work with its allies to strengthen the multilateral-rule base system with a view to counter China’s engagement with the world. It goes on to state “China’s challenge will require a comprehensive strategy and more systematic approach than the piecemeal approach of the recent past.” In that regard, the Administration will coordinate with U.S. allies to pressure the Chinese government to end its unfair trade practices and will work to hold China accountable to its trade obligations. Further, through bilateral and multilateral engagements, the U.S. will seek to build consensus around trade policies and will reengage and be a leader in international organizations, including the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) and will rely on strong trade enforcement to make certain U.S. trade partners live up to their commitments. These efforts will restore U.S. leadership around the world.

Countering China Through a “Value” Base Appeal

With regard to countering China through a values-based appeal, the report emphasizes US trade policies shall be advanced through a worker centric, human rights centric, and climate rights centric lens. The report states that workers “will have a seat at the table” in the development of trade policies and the Biden administration will review past trade policies for their impacts on, and unintended consequences for workers. In addition, the administration’s trade team will work with allies to achieve commitments to fight forced labor and to increase transparency and accountability in global supply chains. The report also includes plans to negotiate and implement strong environmental standards that are “critical to a sustainable climate pathway.” These efforts will include the negotiation and implementation of strong environmental standards and the development of market and regulatory approaches to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Observations Conclusory Remarks

An analysis of TPA 2021 makes two key issues certain: (1) We cannot have a functioning and vibrant economy if all our people are sick. Now more than ever we have to consider how global health is changing our lives. And (2) trade disruption caused by the geopolitical competition between the U.S. and China will continue for the foreseeable future, except that it will be multidimensional. As a result, any business that operates within this international trade environment must have a plan on how to manage global trade risk as compliance issues will remain a priority in the new Administration.



Ngosong Fonkem is an attorney at Page•Fura, P.C., a firm that provide companies of all sizes with business-practical representation on all aspects of Customs & International Trade Law. Ngosong received his B.A. from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (2008), J.D./MBA from West Virginia University College of Law (2011), and LL.M. from Tulane Law School (2012).

In formation on his co-authored book, Trade Crash: A Primer on Surviving and Thriving in Pandemics & Global Trade Disruption, is available at:

2019 CRGC Exports Grant Program Application

The Chicago Regional Growth Corporation (CRGC) Exports is pleased to announce that our grant program is accepting applications! Small and medium-sized companies, who can demonstrate a comprehensive export strategy and have not previously received more than one grant from CRGC or Metro Chicago Exports, are eligible to apply.

The Grant Program provides companies with a 50% reimbursement of eligible export activities, up to $5,000.

If your business is interested in the CRGC Exports Grant Program, please fill out the application form. Completing the Grant Program application is not a guarantee of an award.

Chicago Regional Growth Corporation staff will evaluate your company’s Grant Program Application and get in touch with you.

Eligibility Requirements

Before submitting the grant application, the company should check that you meet all of the following requirements:

Be prepared to answer the following short essay questions in the grant application:

If you have any questions please contact

Phone: 312.763.3643


APICS-Chicago’s Economic Outlook 2020 on January 23rd

Join APICS-Chicago for this First Event of the New Year Economic Outlook 2020

Having rung in the New Year it is once again time for the Annual Economic Outlook dinner meeting at Gino’s East (formerly The Millrose Brewing Company) in South Barrington. Join us on Thursday, January 23, 2020, for what has become a much appreciated annual tradition, when our respected speaker, Dr. Edward F. Stuart, will again provide his informative and entertaining take on current economic activity, and on some of what 2020 may hold in store.

Economic news during most of 2019 has largely been about tariffs and trade, however there are still questions about the affects (or lack of affects) of Tax Cuts, especially for businesses, and deregulation — As of the Friday after Thanksgiving the DJIA closed above 28,000, GDP growth was at 3.1% in the first quarter, 2% in the second quarter, and 2.1% in the third quarter, with unemployment hitting a 50yr low at 3.5%. What will this mean for 2020? Will last year’s tax cuts further stimulate the economy, or will they prove to be a one time boost? Will deregulation, such as on auto emissions help control consumer prices, or will they create other areas of cost such as healthcare issues/expenses associated with poor air quality? Will signals from China result in settling trade wars and will that benefit the US economy, or has irrevocable damage been done, with the buying habits of other countries having shifted permanently away from American goods and commodities? Additionally, will slowing world markets throw our Economy a curve, or will the U.S. Economy be the stabilizing factor across markets? And what about more traditional concerns such as: The Fed’s monetary policy; another housing market crash and the chance of a recession; or will GDP climb and unemployment continue to stay low?

With a gaggle of Democrats vying for their party’s nomination, during this next year as much as ever, the debate over economic policy will likely continue to be more about political policies then about economic forces. No matter the point-of-view, just as in past years, once again it is unclear as to who is correct and as to what should be done. Dr. Stuart has famously said, “We’re always in uncharted territory in Macroeconomics,”  but given that decisions have to be made, and will be made, what should we use as a guiding star – even in uncharted waters? Specifically, will trade come back and hopefully grow? Will new tax rates prove to be an ongoing economic stimulus, or were they just a one-time bump? How will other global dynamics, such as a slow-down in Europe, affect the U.S. Economy in 2020? Is Recession a distant memory, or a  threat looming on the horizon? Basically, the question is up or down – Which way will the US Economy be headed in 2020?

Therefore, going into 2020 we once again turn to Dr. Stuart to provide guidance on the affects that the U.S. internal economic forces will have in combination with global economic machinations. As in past years, Dr. Stuart will of course have a full 45 minutes to define the current economic situation, and provide an outlook for 2020 – explaining his conclusions while cutting through Fed-speak, political hyperbole, and Economic calculus.

You may recognize Dr. Edward F. Stuart, Professor Emeritus, Economics, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), from the WTTW program, Chicago Tonight, where Dr. Stuart is often called on to provide expert background on economic issues.

Dr. Stuart earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Oklahoma where his specialties were International Economics and Russian Studies. Dr. Stuart led his first trip to the Soviet Union in 1985 and has since led several student trips to Russia and Europe . Dr. Stuart has participated in educational conferences in Russia, was a Guest Professor at the Urals State Pedagogical University in Katerinburg, Russia, was a Guest Professor in China in 2016, and has been a Guest Professor at Salzburg College in Salzburg, Austria. Last, year, Dr. Stuart completed his audio / video course, Capitalism vs. Socialism: Comparing Economic Systems, which has become available for download from The Great Courses.

Please register here.

2020 Economic Outlook Luncheon

The Global Midwest Alliance invites you to its first program of 2020.

Join us on January 7, as Global Midwest Alliance and sponsors, Polsinelli, Wipfli, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and host, Wintrust Commercial Banking, present a program focused on the forces that are currently shaping the U.S. economy as it enters 2020.

Keynote speaker William Strauss, a Senior Economist and Economic Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago since 1982, will discuss the major sectors of the economy and provide the Federal Reserve’s forecast along with his perspective on economic activity.

Attendees will include C-suite executives from a variety of industries, civic and business leaders, and members of the economic and business development communities.

Seating is limited.  Please register here.

TMA Manufacturing Export Forum

Start Date: 11/14/2019 7:30 AM CST
End Date: 11/14/2019 9:30 AM CST

Venue Name: Technology & Manufacturing Association

Location: 1651 Wilkening Rd., Schaumburg, IL  United States  60173

Organization Name: Technology & Manufacturing Association


Cori D’Onofrio
Phone: 847-282-4714

The Manufacturing Export Forum will provide an overview on the financing tools, risk mitigation strategies, and accounting considerations that manufacturers face when exporting.

Consisting of two panel discussions, attendees will have the opportunity to engage directly with senior international trade professionals. The panels will begin with a discussion on how Trade Finance, Credit Risk Insurance, International Logistics work together.

The second panel will focus on the accounting needs of manufacturers and will cover topics including Tax, Tariffs and your Supply Chain, and R&D Tax Credits.

Presenters Include:
– Chicago Regional  Growth Corporation
– Euler Hermes North America
– First American Bank
– LR International
– Plante Moran

Free to all TMA members, a light breakfast will be provided.

Rotary/One – Passport to the World

Please join the Rotary Club of Chicago for a unique networking event with the Chicago Consular Corps, Chicago International Trade Commissioners’ Association and the Chicagoland business community.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019
5:30 – 7:30 PM

Union League Club
65 West Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604

Registration: Rotary Passport to the World, $40 Per Person

2018 Chicago Booth Emerging Markets Summit!

2018 Chicago Booth Emerging Markets Summit

Conference Theme: “Navigating Emerging Markets in a World of Transition”

at the Harper Center, 5807 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637

The 2018 Booth Emerging Markets Summit will bring together over 50 speakers from Latin America, Africa, Middle East, South Asia, and Asia Pacific covering topics in fintech, social impact, private equity & venture capital, and government & policy.

Interested in learning about the startup ecosystem in Africa, macro trends impacting Latin America, or social entrepreneurship in the Middle East?

The 2018 EMS promises a day of spirited conversation around the path of growth for emerging markets. Keynote speakers will include:

Register for the summit here and follow us on Facebook for more speaker updates.

The Industry 4.0 from a Quebec standpoint

On the occasion of the Industry 4.0 ThinkTank event, the government of Quebec invites you to a networking breakfast with industry leaders around the topic of the Transition to Industry 4.0 in highly regulated industry sectors.

RSVP by January 30th (online registration) 

For information, please contact Leslie Westfal at +1-312-310-2400, or   
Thursday, February 1st, 2018 
7:00 to 8:30 a.m. 
Ace Hotel – Form Room 
311 N Morgan St – Chicago, IL 60607

Click here to register:

Free webinar, Wed. 09/06/17: Renegotiating NAFTA, What’s on the Table

TOPIC >Renegotiating NAFTA, What’s on the Table 
DATE >Wednesday, September 6, 2017 
TIME >1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. U.S. CDT 
LEARN >The US, Mexico and Canada will engage in substantial negotiation to shape the terms in which the NAFTA region, (one of the most competitive regions in the world) will compete not only among themselves but with the rest of the world.    

Three experts from Mexico, Canada and the United States will share their insights, current viewpoints, and negotiating positions of their respective countries, as well as the potential outcomes of one of the toughest commercial negotiations the members of NAFTA have ever faced. The results of these negotiations will most likely lay the foundation for the role this region will play in the near future. 

CLICK >To Register* 
Click here 
Once you have registered, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to join the conference.*


Hugo Cuesta Leaño  Hugo Cuesta Leaño 
  Cuesta Campos 
  y Asociados, S.C. 
  Mexico City, MEXICO
Hugo Cuesta joined Cuesta Campos in 1986 and since 2008 has been the Managing Partner. He has focused his practice in international business transactions. His extensive corporate background comprises foreign investment, M&A, banking & finance and corporate law.

Didier Culat  Didier Culat 
  Québec City, Québec
Didier Culat has acted in financings and commercial transactions with international or cross-border implications and in securities law. He has particular experience in cross-border transactions and the implementation of wholesale and retail financing programs for financial institutions.

Brian Walsh  Brian Walsh 
  Barnes, Richardson 
  & Colburn, LLP 
  Chicago, Illinois USA


Brian Walsh is a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes, Richardson & Colburn, LLC, a Meritas member firm which limits its practice to the areas of U.S. Customs, Export Control and International Trade Law. Since the implementation of the NAFTA, Mr. Walsh has been actively involved in advising companies on NAFTA compliance, including whether goods traded within the NAFTA region qualify for preferential treatment under the NAFTA rules of origin, representing companies in NAFTA origin verifications, audits and investigations and filing numerous prior disclosures to protect companies from the potential assessment of penalties in cases in which preferential treatment was mistakenly or incorrectly claimed. 

15th Annual Dominick L. DiCarlo U.S. Court of International Trade Lecture

CLE Program: Compliance & Enforcement in International Trade

CLE: approx. 2 hours

$25 general registration.
Free for JMLS students and faculty.

Panelists will address areas of supply-chain risk, including new concerns involving the Enforce & Protect Act, False Claims Act cases, and sanctions. Panelists will also discuss the enforcement of intellectual property at the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

3:15 p.m. | Panel 1: Current issues of IPR Enforcement at the Border
R. Kevin Williams
Clark Hill PLC
Kenneth R. Adamo (LLM ’89)
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Dax Terrill Senior Attorney-Advisor, Intellectual Property Rights Branch, Office of International Trade
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
4:20 p.m. | Panel 2: New Potential Liabilities for Importers and Exporters
Lawrence Friedman (JD ’89, LLM ’01)
Barnes Richardson and Colburn, LLP
Matthew K. Organ
Goldberg Kohn
Joan A. Koenig
Drinker Biddle
Register Online
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