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Trump Inauguration, Confirmation Hearings, Russian Sanctions: Trade Talk Week in Review 4-9 Jan 2017

President Barack Obama will travel to Chicago on Tuesday, 10 January, to deliver his farewell address to the nation.  U.S. businessman Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, 20 January.

Trump Transition News – Confirmation Hearings.  Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday, 11 January, to consider the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State.  Mr. Tillerson is expected to field questions related to his tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, his ties to Russia, and the conflict in Syria, among other topics.  Democrats on the panel may also seek to question Mr. Tillerson on climate change and allegations Exxon suppressed internal research on the impact of fossil fuels on global warming.

On Thursday, January 12, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Wilbur Ross to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Mr. Ross will likely face questions from Members related to the steel industry, especially given the Commerce Department’s oversight role of that industry and trade enforcement matters more generally.  He is also expected to field questions related to the Trump Administration’s trade policy priorities.

Russia – New Sanctions Measure in the Works.  On 5 January, the SFRC held a closed-door hearing to examine recent Obama Administration responses to alleged Russian hacking and harassment of U.S. diplomats in Russia.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) also held a hearing on 5 January with top U.S. intelligence officials to discuss their conclusion that Russian hackers had meddled in the 2016 election.  While Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) called the hacking “an unprecedented attack on our democracy,” he cautioned that “none of us believe” Russia swayed the outcome of the election.  During the hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) suggested that President-Elect Donald Trump should support additional sanctions against Russia, remarking that President Obama had thrown a “pebble” at the Kremlin, instead of a “rock.”  Meanwhile, Senators McCain and Graham are reportedly working with Senator Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the SFRC, to draft new sanctions legislation targeting Russia in response to the hack of the Democratic National Committee.  Senator Cardin has also indicated that the measure could potentially address alleged Russian activity in Ukraine and Syria as well.

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