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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Disputes over trade cloud Biden’s U.N. General Assembly trip

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1976, Playboy magazine released its profile of Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter. In one memorable answer to a question about his religious beliefs, Carter said: “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.”

The big idea

Disputes over trade cloud Biden’s U.N. General Assembly trip

President Biden is off today to New York and the annual diplomatic cacophony that is the United Nations General Assembly — call it the UNGA din. In a speech to world leaders on Wednesday, he’s expected to return to his theme of the global tug-of-war between democrats and autocrats.

But while Biden is all-but certain to celebrate the way the United States and its partners have stayed together on Ukraine, two trade disputes with some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia could be nagging irritants, and perhaps even spoil his unity party.

The first dispute is the better known of the two. It centers on the Northern Ireland protocol, and it’s likely to be central when Biden sits down Wednesday with British Prime Minister Liz Truss on the sidelines of UNGA.

Simplifying, but:

  • One important aspect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of deadly violence in Northern Ireland was demilitarizing the border with Ireland, while European Union rules meant goods and people could cross freely.
  • But Britain voted in 2016 to quit the European Union (Brexit!), so suddenly Northern Ireland (Brexited) and Ireland (still in the E.U.) might have had to build the border back up, and institute customs and immigration controls.
  • That would have been hugely disruptive to the post-1998 relationship, leading some to fear about a renewal of violence.
  • The protocol basically set up a system by which goods are checked when they arrive from Britain into Northern Ireland, instead.

Biden, a proud Irish American who strongly supports the protocol, has warned that any changes to it must be negotiated between London and Brussels. Truss’s new government sees the protocol as economically disruptive and a blow to sovereignty — and hasn’t ruled out making unilateral changes absent major concessions from the E.U.

Biden’s leverage is Britain’s desire, after Brexit hurt its economic ties to Europe, to expand trade with the United States — a fact White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre underlined in a briefing earlier this month.

“There is no formal linkage on trade talks between the U.S. and the U.K. and the Northern Ireland Protocol,” she said. “But efforts to undo the Northern Ireland Protocol would not create a conducive environment.”

Upon arriving in New York today, Truss said a new trade deal was unlikely in the “short to medium term.”

Tensions over IRA

The second dispute has spent less time in American headlines, but it also has the potential to grow into something significant. This one is about unhappiness among several major allies — notably South Korea — about the Inflation Reduction Act.

The law, which Biden is touting as a signal Democratic achievement with the midterm elections coming up, provides billions of dollars in incentives to shift the domestic production of electric vehicles and the batteries that make them go to U.S. soil.

  • While that’s meant in part as a blow to China, some U.S. allies are profoundly unhappy at what they understandably see as discrimination against their products.

Here’s one example, from Christian Davies and Song Jung-a this weekend in the Financial Times, for which they interviewed South Korean trade minister Ahn Duk-geun.

“The Biden administration’s abrupt withdrawal of subsidies for South Korean electric vehicles is threatening to undermine trust in the US, Seoul’s trade minister has warned, as trade tensions grow between the allies. Seoul is furious that EVs manufactured by Hyundai in South Korea will be excluded from generous consumer tax credits contained in the Inflation Reduction Act …”

“When this new law was enacted and signed by President Biden, and [it became clear that] that company was being discriminated against, thissituation provoked emotional and political repercussions,” Ahn said.

Back in May, when Biden visited South Korea, Hyundai announced it would invest billions into manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries in Georgia. “But Hyundai’s Georgia plant is not scheduled to begin production until 2025 — making it ineligible for [IRA] subsidies until then,” the FT reported.

Bilateral talks are looking to “minimize the damage,” the FT quoted Ahn as saying.

“'We don’t want to aggravate the problem by adopting similar retaliatory measures,’ said Ahn, who reiterated South Korea’s position that left open the possibility of taking action at the World Trade Organization.”

“But you never know, if the situation gets really serious, we are flexible too.”

Working it out behind the scenes?

And it’s not just South Korea.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s the Hankyoreh newspaper reported Sept. 7 that “Working-level staff from Korea, Japan, Germany, the UK and Sweden’s embassies to the US met last week” to discuss cooperating with each other on the IRA.

  • In a statement Monday night, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the White House understands some allies “have concerns” about how the tax credits will work and pledged to keep “working with our partners to better understand their concerns and keep open channels of engagement on these issues.”

A National Security Council official also shared a list of meetings on the subject between senior Biden aides, including U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and officials from Japan, the European Union and South Korea.

See you at UNGA!

What’s happening now

Sen. Graham says abortion ‘not a states’ rights issue’

“His remarks during an appearance on ‘Fox & Friends’ on Fox News are directly at odds with what he said on the issue in May, when it appeared the Supreme Court was on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision,” John Wagner and Azi Paybarah report.

Trump lawyers, Justice Dept. to meet with Mar-a-Lago special master

Lawyers for Donald Trump are scheduled to meet Tuesday with federal prosecutors and the special master appointed at the request of the former president to review documents seized from his Florida home,” Perry Stein, Devlin Barrett and Shayna Jacobs report.

4 Ukrainian separatist regions plan votes to join Russia

Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans Tuesday to start voting this week to become integral parts of Russia. The concerted and quickening Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war against Ukrainian forces successfully battling to wrest back territory,” Reuters' Jon Gambrell reports.

Mark your calendar: This week in Washington

On Wednesday, the 13th annual Congressional Football Game will take place at Audi Field. The game will raise money for the U.S. Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Our Military Kids, and A Advantage 4 Kids and the Boys & Girls Club of America. Tickets are available here.

On Friday, Elton John is scheduled to perform on the South Lawn. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will both make remarks. 

  • The White House said in a statement Tuesday that the concert would “celebrate the unifying and healing power of music, commend the life and work of Sir Elton John, and honor the everyday history-makers in the audience, including teachers, nurses, frontline workers, mental health advocates, students, LGBTQ+ advocates and more.”

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Trump’s ‘big lie’ fueled a new generation of social media influencers

The 2020 election and its turbulent aftermath fueled a powerful generation of online influencers, a Washington Post data analysis has found, producing sky-high follower counts for an array of conservatives who echoed Trump’s false claims of election fraud, known as the ‘big lie.’ Some doubled or tripled their audiences on Twitter, while others saw even larger gains — catapulting, like [former Fox News producer Kyle Becker,] from relative obscurity to online fame,” Elizabeth Dwoskin and Jeremy B. Merrill report.

These accounts amassed followers despite vows by Big Tech companies to police election disinformation, The Post found. And they have gone on to use their powerful megaphones to shape the national debate on other subjects, injecting fresh waves of distortion into such culture-war topics as transgender rights and critical race theory.”

Trump lawyers acknowledge Mar-a-Lago probe could lead to indictment

“In Monday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers wrote that they don’t want [Judge Raymond J. Dearie, the newly appointed special master.] to force Trump to ‘fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order’ — a remarkable statement that acknowledges at least the possibility that the former president or his aides could be criminally charged,” Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett report.

… and beyond

For the first time in 230 years, Congress has full U.S. Indigenous representation

“Rep. Mary Peltola’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives made history in several ways. With her recent swearing-in, it became official for the first time in more than 230 years: A Native American, a Native Alaskan and a Native Hawaiian are all members of the House — fully representing the United States’ Indigenous people for the first time, according to Rep. Kaialii Kahele of Hawaii. Now, there are six Indigenous Americans who are representatives in the House,” NPR's Jaclyn Diaz reports.

The Biden agenda

Biden scrambles to shore up Latino support. Is it too late?

“Biden and Democrats have delivered on a number of policy promises of deep importance to Latinos. But some Latino activists worry voters aren’t aware of all that’s been done, and others worry that the blinkered perspective Biden acknowledged privately has limited Latino representation in his administration,” the Los Angeles Times' Eli Stokols reports.

Biden’s vow to defend Taiwan makes U.S. policy shift explicit

“Three times as president, Joe Biden has said the US would defend Taiwan if China invades the island, and each time his staff argued he wasn’t changing longstanding US policy to keep Beijing guessing about US intentions. His fourth time makes that much harder to do,” Bloomberg News's Jennifer Jacobs, Jenny Leonard, and Iain Marlow report.

Biden declared the pandemic ‘over.’ His covid team says it’s more complicated.

Administration officials involved with the Covid response stressed that Biden’s remarks would not impact their policy planning, nor that they represented a turning point in the response. The administration is still expected to renew its Covid public health declaration in October, and is pushing ahead to stockpile testing supplies,” Politico's Adam Cancryn and Krista Mahr report.

Deforestation vs. accountability in the Amazon, visualized

“No one goes to jail,” Luciano Evaristo, former chief inspection officer of Ibama, the federal environmental law enforcement agency, told our colleague Terrence McCoy. “For example, in 2016, we took apart a large deforestation ring in the south of Pará state. They deforested 50 square miles. There were 23 arrests. In the end, no one’s in jail. And this was the biggest deforestation ring in Brazil.”

Hot on the left

Suspicious gun purchases can finally be tracked

“After a yearslong fight and even more decades of gun violence, major financial institutions now have a way to track and flag suspicious purchases of firearms or ammunition. A new merchant code for firearm and ammunition retailers has been introduced by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO),” Ramenda Cyrus writes for the American Prospect.

“Merchant category codes (MCCs) are a tool that companies use to categorize and sort purchases, such as at restaurants, bars, or grocery stores. For gun safety activists, creating a firearm-specific code is a win that they say will aid in preventing violence and firearm trafficking.”

Hot on the right

McConnell’s closed-door confidence

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed cautious optimism in closed-door remarks Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the GOP can win back control of the Senate,” Axios' Hans Nichols reports

Why it matters: McConnell has publicly downplayed expectations for winning the majority, with a prediction in mid-August that the House is more likely than the Senate to change hands. His private confidence reflects some newly found hope among Republicans that their political prospects have improved.”

Today in Washington

At 1:45 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks on the DISCLOSE Act from the Roosevelt Room.

He will leave the White House at 4 p.m., arriving in New York at 5:25 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m., Biden will take part in a Democratic National Committee reception.

In closing

The Space Force has released its … official song?

It’s called Semper Supra (Latin for “always above”) and it goes like this:

We’re the mighty watchful eye, 
Guardians beyond the blue, 
The invisible front line, 
Warfighters brave and true. 
Boldly reaching into space, 
There’s no limit to our sky. 
Standing guard both night and day, 
We’re the Space Force from on high. 

Our music critic colleague Michael Andor Brodeur has more details: With new official anthem, the Space Force hopes to land on your radar

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.