- UK hires law firm for digital services tax fight; UAE hires PR for Mars mission; Hong Kong’s trade mission pushes back on US accusations; Mercury lobbies for troubled Baltic bank
UK hires law firm to help defend digital services tax amid US probe
The United Kingdom wants to tax US tech giants, and the Donald Trump administration is not happy about it. To help get out of this gherkin (pickle in the US), the British Treasury has hired Steptoe & Johnson to help navigate the legal waters.
The UK is one of nine entities considering digital services taxes (DSTs) against which the Office of the US Trade Representative has launched investigations. These could lead to tariffs or other import restrictions. Also on the hot seat: The European Union, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Spain and Turkey. Read our story here.
Further complicating matters, the UK is in the midst of trade negotiations with the US in which DSTs could also be an issue. Steptoe is also advising the UK in those talks, as we detail here.
UAE hires PR firm to boost Mars mission
The United Arab Emirates is justifiably proud of its mission to Mars. And it wants everyone on Earth to know about it.
The emirate has hired Fleishman-Hillard to spread the word. As the firm acknowledges in its lobbying disclosure, the goal is to create a “general positive reputational impact for the UAE by highlighting the scientific advancements and commitments to technology and innovation made by the country.”
Read more about the mission and the Gulf space race here.
From the archive: Hong Kong’s US trade envoy moves to calm business jitters
With China officially enacting its security law on Hong Kong and the US in turn ending defense and dual-use technology exports to the territory, we’re re-upping our June 1 interview with the regional director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
Last month, Ralph Chow told us that his office had no plans to lobby the White House or Congress to back off. Rather, its aim is to counter US messaging that Hong Kong has lost the “high degree of autonomy” that China promised when it retook control from the British in 1997.
“We are not able to influence the politicians in the US,” Chow told Foreign Lobby Report. “So what we can do is perhaps just try to reassure the confidence of the international business community on Hong Kong, to make sure that they are fully informed about the situation in Hong Kong and also the background of the national security law to be established in Hong Kong.” Read the full interview here.
NEW DOMESTIC LOBBYING FILINGS (LDA)
Latvia’s ABLV Bank has hired Mercury Public Affairs to conduct “Treasury outreach” according to a new registration filing that was effective May 15. Bryan Lanza, a member of US President Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign and transition team, is registered as a lobbyist on the account. In early 2018, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) designated ABLV as an “institution of primary money laundering concern,” saying that “institutionalized money laundering as a pillar of the bank’s business practices.” Later that year, Latvia’s banking regulator approved the bank’s liquidation. Last month, more than 300 law enforcement agents reportedly searched locations affiliated with the bank in one of the largest law enforcement searches in the country’s history.
Tadano America, the US subsidiary of Japanese crane manufacturer Tadano, has hired Vox Global to lobby on “issues affecting United States trade policy,” including Section 232 tariffs. Former congressional aide Chris Matthews is the only lobbyist registered to work on the account. The registration was effective July 1. Tadano America previously hired The Roosevelt Group through law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The Roosevelt Group plans to lobby on Section 232 investigations of mobile crane imports and US-Japan trade. Registered to lobby are Roosevelt Group founder John Simmons; Matt Herrmann; and Jamie Jones Miller, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. The registration was effective June 1.
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
Bahamas: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism spent more than $18 million promoting the country in the second half of 2019. Read the filing here.
Guyana: Lobbyists for the ruling APNU+AFC coalition continue to make their case to Congress and the Donald Trump administration that their candidate appears to have won March’s disputed elections, notwithstanding assertions to the contrary from Caricom and the Organization of American States. The coalition is represented by JJ&B. Read more about the Guyanese parties’ US lobbying battle here and JJ&B’s efforts to tarnish the opposition as US foes here.
China: Capitol Counsel received $90,000 from the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) and $20,000 from the US-China Transpacific Foundation during the six months through May. The two groups help organize educational trips to China for members of Congress but no such trips took place during the period. Read the filing here.
India: BGR Government Relations today emailed reporters on behalf the government of India to encourage coverage of a shooting attack that killed a Central Reserve Police Force trooper and a civilian in Jammu & Kashmir. Here’s the email:
Japan: McGuireWoods Consulting helped set up meetings for Japanese Embassy officials with Virginia state lawmakers and Gov. Ralph Northam‘s administration during the six months through May. “The reason for these meetings was to introduce the principal to legislators and members of the Governor’s administration for relationship development, purposes and discussion of cultural topics,” the filing states. The firm received $30,000 from the embassy and $15,000 from the Japanese Consulate in Atlanta during the period.
Marshall Islands: Akin Gump subcontractor the Oliver Group received $30,000 for work on behalf of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) during the six months through May. The firm in turn paid consultant Jeffrey Farrow $25,000 to assist Akin Gump. The firms advisory services notably covered:
- Compensation for U.S. unilateral nullification of tax and trade provisions of the Compact of Free Association;
- Leakage of nuclear waste from the US Government-built storage facility on Runit;
- Negotiation of future terms of free association;
- Compact Trust Fund;
- Supplemental Education Grant;
- Postal, Weather and Aviation services;
- Disaster assistance;
- Pell grants;
- Special Education grants;
- Preservation of the right of Freely Associated States (FAS) citizens to enter, work, and reside in the U.S.; and
- Sea level rise.
The firm reported:
- Meetings with Angel Nigaglioni, legislative director for House Appropriations Committee member Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.);
- A meeting with Isaac Edwards, special counsel for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources;
- Calls with Brian Modeste, staff director for Insular Affairs at the House Committee on Natural Resources;
- Calls with RMI Desk Officer Joseph McDermott at the Department of the Interior; and
- Calls with Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs senior adviser Howard Hills.
Read the filing here.
Ukraine: President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s US adviser met with acting US ambassador to Ukraine Kristina Kvien in February and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent in March. Zelensky appointed Andrew Mac, the head of the Washington office of Ukrainian law firm Asters, as a pro bono, non-staff adviser in November 2019. Mac notably advocates for International Monetary Fund programs in Ukraine. See below for a screenshot of Mac’s filing for the six months through May and read the whole document here.
Kurdistan Regional Government: Slocum & Boddie reported no fees or political activities in its work for the KRG in the six months through March.
Qatar: Texas-based adviser Charles Untermeyer received $90,000 from the Qatari Embassy in Washington during the six months through May, The former US Ambassador to Doha notably helped with preliminary planning for Texas trips by Ambassador Meshal Al Thani and Mohammed al-Sowaidi, the head of the US office of the Qatar Investment Authority. Read the filing here. Untermeyer was recently required to register as a foreign agent of Qatar for his time as chairman of the Qatar-America Institute, as Foreign Lobby Report first reported June 3.
Saudi Arabia: Iowa public relations firm LS2Group pitched an interview with Saudi Ambassador Reema bint Bandar Al Saud to Sioux Falls Woman magazine last week as part of heartland outreach on behalf of the Saudi Embassy in Washington. The firm also reached out to the Maine International Trade Center and the private sector executive council Maine & Co.
Turkey: Former Congressman Charles Boustany, Republican of Louisiana, met with Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) and Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in February in his capacity as a Turkey lobbyist for Capitol Counsel. He was accompanied by Capitol Counsel partner Towner French, who separately met with Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.). The firm was paid $216,000 as a subcontractor to Greenberg Traurig during the six months through May. Read the filing here.
United Arab Emirates: Certus Insights has amended its March 2020 registration for US public opinion polling on behalf of the UAE to disclose $249,000 in fees. Certus is a subcontractor to Qorvis Americas on the account. Read more about the UAE’s survey efforts here.