McMahon: President Trump Encourages Congress to Work Together to Unlock the Extraordinary Promise of America’s Future

WASHINGTON – Feb 5th, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Linda E. McMahon issued the following response to President Donald J. Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address:

“President Trump delivered an optimistic vision for American greatness that included a bold and inclusive agenda rooted in shared values. He extended a good-faith offer to Congress to work with him to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs, rebuild American infrastructure, establish safe and legal immigration, protect American workers from unfair trade practices, and strengthen national security. The booming Trump economy provides irrefutable validation of the President’s pro-growth governing philosophy. The agenda he proposed will expand prosperity for all Americans, while providing innovative solutions to some of the most important challenges facing small businesses.”

U.S. employers added 304,000 jobs in January, soaring past expectations

Treasury yields jumped on Friday after the Labor Department said the American economy added more than 300,000 jobs and more people entered the workforce in the month of January.

U.S. employers added 304,000 jobs in January, soaring past Wall Street’s expectations for an increase of 165,000 jobs, seemingly brushing off a 35-day government shutdown as investors braced for mixed results. It was the 100 straight month of gains.

The unemployment rate climbed to 4 percent from 3.9 percent, while the labor force participation rate rose slightly to 63.2 percent. Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, rose by 3 cents to $27.56. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by a total of 85 cents, or about 3.2 percent.

The report is also indicative that despite recent geopolitical turmoil — US-China trade tensions and uncertainty over the Brexit deal in Europe — the U.S. economy will manage to shake off any market volatility, according to Josh Wright, the chief economist for iCIMS and a former Federal Reserve staffer.

Wright, however, warned that the better-than-expected number could complicate the dovish narrative the Fed is currently pushing.

On Wednesday, policymakers at the U.S. central bank unanimously voted to keep the benchmark federal funds rate unchanged, while signaling a patient approach to future interest rate hikes.

“We still see sustained expansion of ecnomic activity, strong labor conditions and inflation near 2 percent,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at the time. “But the crosscurrents suggest a less favorable outlook.”

But the blowout jobs number could convince the Fed to reverse course before the end of the year, according to Wright.

“As the shutdown fades into the past (and if another one doesn’t do more damage), the Fed will lose one of its arguments for pausing, leaving it to rely on global headwinds, trade and Brexit uncertainty,” he said. “Financial conditions have already improved considerably. It’s going to be a rocky quarter or two for the U.S. central bank, with a lot of risk to its credibility. Yet if markets find the Fed credible, implied interest-rate volatility should be restrained.”

Jobs numbers follow a report released on Wednesday from payroll processing firm ADP, which revealed the private sector added 213,000 jobs in December, beating analysts’ expectations of 178,000 jobs.

Analysts anticipated that unemployment would hold steady at 3.9 percent, one of the lowest numbers in nearly 50 years, while forecasting the creation of 165,000 jobs, according to economists polled by Refinitiv (formerly Thomson Reuters). In December, job creation was revised to 222,000, down from the original better-than-expected 312,000.

Initially, the White House was bracing for a potentially negative jobs number in January when the Department of Labor releases the payroll data. However, U.S. labor officials said last week they would count the once-furloughed workers as employed because they’re getting paid retroactively once the government is up and running again.

However, the job creation was not coupled with robust wage growth; average hourly earnings rose just three cents on the month, or 0.1 percent, well below the 0.3 percent expected gain. Yields also jumped after the Institute for Supply Manufacturing said activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in January.

The short-term 2-year rate rose 5 basis points to 2.504 percent. The yield on the long-term 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.677 percent at 10:12 a.m. ET. Yields fall as bond prices rise.

USTR: Statement on the United States Trade Delegation’s Meetings in Beijing

Washington – On January 7-9, an official delegation from the United States led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish held meetings in Beijing with Chinese officials to discuss ways to achieve fairness, reciprocity, and balance in trade relations between our two countries. The officials also discussed the need for any agreement to provide for complete implementation subject to ongoing verification and effective enforcement. The meetings were held as part of the agreement reached by President Donald J. Trump and President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires to engage in 90 days of negotiations with a view to achieving needed structural changes in China with respect to forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft of trade secrets for commercial purposes, services, and agriculture.  The talks also focused on China’s pledge to purchase a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services from the United States.  The United States officials conveyed President Trump’s commitment to addressing our persistent trade deficit and to resolving structural issues in order to improve trade between our countries.

The delegation will now report back to receive guidance on the next steps.

Statement Regarding the United States Delegation to China

Washington, DC – The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) today announced the members of an official delegation from the United States to China to discuss the trade relationship between the two countries beginning Monday, January 7, 2019.  

Members of the United States Delegation:

  • Ambassador Jeffrey Gerrish, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
  • Ambassador Gregg Doud, USTR Chief Agricultural Negotiator
  • Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Gilbert B. Kaplan, U.S. Department of Commerce
  • Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass, U.S. Department of the Treasury 

The delegation will be accompanied by senior officials from the White House, USTR, and the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, State, and Treasury.

MBDA Awards Nearly $2 Million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities

WASHINGTON (December 3, 2018) – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), is announcing grant awards of nearly $2 million to four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In June 2018, MBDA invited HBCUs to propose projects that will achieve one or more of the following objectives: increase their ability to compete for and receive Federal research and development funds; establish partnerships with Federal laboratories and other technology resources; increase Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) entrepreneurship; and compete for Federal contracts.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities served as the catalyst to creating the black middle class in America and will continue to be the incubator for minority business talent, innovation, and leadership. These important schools generate billions in economic impact annually and are engines for job creation in their local economies across the United States,” said MBDA National Director Henry Childs II. “These grant awards will provide seed money for these institutions to pursue innovative projects and to build more revenue-generating infrastructures to better serve our nation’s future entrepreneurs and workforce.”

The HBCUs that received grant awards include:

Clark Atlanta University ($499,497) to develop a STEM entrepreneurship curriculum that increases student interest in the innovation economy at three Atlanta University Center Consortium campuses.

Howard University ($359,891) to design a technical support model for 11 HBCUs in the mid-Atlantic region to compete for Federal research and development funds and leverage partnerships with Federal laboratories.

South Carolina State University ($404,992) to launch regional training sessions for HBCUs to compete for Federal research and development funds.

Tougaloo College ($695,412) to establish a partnership among multiple HBCUs, private companies, federal labs, and research institutions to increase capacity for HBCUs to participate in federal research and contracting opportunities.

These programs are part of the 2018 MBDA Broad Agency Announcement, a new initiative this year. More than $13 million was awarded for 35 projects focused on Department of Commerce and MBDA priorities from resources that increase disaster preparedness and relief to programs that increase access to capital. For a full listing of MBDA’s 2018 grant awards, visit http://www.mbda.gov/news.

DHS Proposes Merit-Based Rule for More Effective and Efficient H-1B Visa Program

WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period. Under the proposed rule, USCIS would also reverse the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption, likely increasing the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number, and introducing a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelors or higher degree in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. When USCIS receives more than enough petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-1B cap, a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, is used to select the petitions that are counted towards the number of petitions projected as needed to reach the cap.

The proposed rule includes a provision that would enable USCIS to temporarily suspend the registration process during any fiscal year in which USCIS may experience technical challenges with the H-1B registration process and/or the new electronic system. The proposed temporary suspension provision would also allow USCIS to up-front delay the implementation of the H-1B registration process past the fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap season, if necessary to complete all requisite user testing and vetting of the new H-1B registration system and process. While USCIS has been actively working to develop and test the electronic registration system, if the rule is finalized as proposed, but there is insufficient time to implement the registration system for the FY 2020 cap selection process, USCIS would likely suspend the registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season.

Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap. The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first. Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions have been selected for the H-1B cap, USCIS would then select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption. This proposed change would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap and that H-1B visas would be awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries. Importantly, the proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 percent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

USCIS expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS. The proposed rule would help alleviate massive administrative burdens on USCIS since the agency would no longer need to physically receive and handle hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and supporting documentation before conducting the cap selection process. This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications. The proposed rule also limits the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, instructing DHS to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of our immigration system.” The EO specifically mentioned the H-1B program and directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Additional information on the proposed rule is available in the Federal Register. Public comments may be submitted starting Monday, December 3, when the proposed rule publishes in the Federal Register, and must be received on or before January 2, 2019.

The United States Signs a Stronger Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada

REBALANCING OUR TRADE RELATIONSHIP: President Donald J. Trump kept his promise to deliver a modern and rebalanced trade deal to replace NAFTA.

  • Today in Argentina, the United States is joining Canada and Mexico to sign a new trade agreement that will better serve the interests of American workers and businesses.
    • This follows the President’s announcement in October that a deal had been reached.
  • The new United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) will replace the outdated, failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • With the signing of this agreement, President Trump has delivered on his promise to renegotiate NAFTA and protect American farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers.

SECURING A STRONGER DEAL FOR AMERICAN INDUSTRIES AND WORKERS: USMCA is a stronger deal for American farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers.

  • USMCA will help incentivize billions of dollars in additional vehicle and auto parts production in the United States.
  • The agreement includes updated rules of origin that require 75 percent of auto content to be produced in North America.
  • American autoworkers will benefit from rules that incentivize the use of high-wage manufacturing labor in the auto sector.
    • This includes a requirement that 40-45% of a vehicle consist of content manufactured by North American workers making at least $16 per hour.
  • USMCA’s labor and environment chapters are fully enforceable and represent the strongest labor and environmental provisions of any trade agreement ever negotiated.
    • Mexico agreed to historic labor reforms to provide for genuine collective bargaining.
    • The agreement prohibits the importation of goods produced by forced labor.
  • The agreement includes provisions that allow agriculture products to be traded more fairly.
    • Canada will end its “Class 6” and “Class 7” programs that allow low-priced dairy products to undersell American dairy producers.
    • Canada will increase market access for United States dairy products, eggs, and poultry.

REFORMING TRADE FOR THE 21st CENTURY: USMCA modernizes our trade relationship with Canada and Mexico to reflect the realities of the 21st century. 

  • The new agreement includes a modernized chapter that provides stronger and more comprehensive intellectual property protections than any prior United States trade agreement.
    • These protections are vital to promoting innovation and economic growth.
    • USMCA includes robust copyright protection, 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs, and new protections against the theft of trade secrets.
  • USMCA includes the strongest digital trade and financial services provisions of any United States trade agreement.
    • New rules ensure that data can be transferred cross-border and that limits on where data can be stored are minimized.
  • USMCA will cut red tape at the border, streamline trade, and reduce regulatory uncertainty.
  • The agreement includes a currency chapter that will help reinforce transparency and stability.