- WHO hires PR firm to fight Trump attacks; Ethiopia starts lobbying again; Thailand hires USTR veteran to undo Trump tariffs; Cambodia footwear group lobbies on tariffs
The World Health Organization has hired a public relations giant to target celebrities and other key influencers as it battles attacks from President Donald Trump over its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $135,000 contract with Hill and Knowlton Strategies dates back to May but was only just disclosed with the Justice Department. The work was initially due to be completed by June 15 but is still ongoing.
The registration says the New York-based firm will assist the WHO by “establishing a baseline measure of public awareness and perceptions” of the organization, “identifying influencers in key regions” and “developing message strategies in order to ensure there is trust in the WHO’s advice and that public health guidance is followed.” Read the story here.
Ethiopia has hired a US lobbying firm amid rising tensions with its neighbors and the Donald Trump administration over a massive dam on the Nile river.
The Ethiopian Embassy in Washington’s contract with Indiana law firm Barnes & Thornburg is for $130,000 and lasts three months.
The new contract marks the first time the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will have a lobbyist in Washington. The country’s previous lobbyist, SGR Government Relations and Lobbying, was terminated April 18, 2018, two weeks after Ahmed entered office. Read the story here.
Thailand has hired a veteran US trade official to lobby Congress and the Donald Trump administration regarding trade preferences for the country’s seafood industry and other exports.
The Office of Commercial Affairs at the Thai Embassy in Washington retained Elena Bryan and her Pilot Rock Global Strategies firm on April 29, according to a new filing with the Department of Justice. The contract was signed days after higher tariffs on certain Thai products went into effect because of concerns over labor rights in the country. Read more here.
NEW FOREIGN LOBBYING FILINGS (FARA)
Azerbaijan: BGR Government Affairs has added senior associate Alex Ellis to its account with the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Ellis was already a registered agent for the governments of Bahrain, Bangladesh, Honduras and India.
China: A Hong Kong textile manufacturer accused of using forced Uighur labor in Xinjiang has amended its public relations contract with TrailRunner International of Texas. Esquel Enterprises will pay the firm $15,000 per month starting in July, down from the $50,000 originally agreed to in March. TrailRunner provides “strategic communications advisory and execution services … related to Esquel’s employment practices and human rights protections, including outreach to newspapers.” Esquel is the world’s largest maker of woven shirts. The firm is among those singled out in proposed legislation from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would bar good made from forced labor in Xinjiang from entering the United States. Registered on the account are TrailRunner Chairman and CEO James Wilkinson, co-CEO Lulu Cheng Meservey, Patrick Shortridge and Georgia Walker.
Kurdistan Regional Government: The KRG’s US liaison office terminated special adviser Niyaz Salih Mustafa Barzani on July 15. In the six months prior he met with several Donald Trump administration officials including then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger; Michael Day of the State Department Office of Iraq Affairs; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs Matthew Zais; and Vice President Mike Pence‘s special adviser for the Middle East, Ludovic Hood.
NEW DOMESTIC LOBBYING FILINGS (LDA)
The Cambodia Footwear Association has hired Sorini, Samet & Associates to lobby on Generalized System of Preferences “trade issues.” The lobbying registration was effective June 9. Ron Sorini, a former chief textile negotiator at the Office of the US Trade Representative, will lobby on the account along with former Deputy Under Secretary of Labor Andrew Samet, Daniel Neumann and Chelsea Murtha.
Emera Technologies, a US subsidiary of Halifax-based energy company Emera, has hired FTI Consulting to lobby on “issues involving clean energy, energy storage, energy infrastructure, energy R&D issues and defense capabilities generally” effective July 15. Shannon Banaga, who is also registered to lobby for Emera subsidiary TECO Energy, is the sole registered lobbyist on the account. Banaga was previously TECO Energy’s director of federal affairs.
Mexican pipeline company Fermaca de Mexico has hired Capitol Counsel to lobby on “issues related to Fermacas pipeline system including associated energy supply contracts,” effective June 3. The pipeline has not yet begun transporting gas because of arbitration proceedings. Former congressman Charles Boustany, Republican of Louisiana is registered to lobby on the account along with Margaret Cekuta, the former director for Eurasia, Russia, and Germany at the Office of the US Trade Representative, Bob Brooks, and Martin Gold.
The Queens-based International Center for Democracy, which is close to Guyana’s opposition PPP party, paid The Cormac Group $100,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress on US-Guyana relations. The Cormac Group in turn paid Otto Reich Associates $70,000 and Thomas Kahn, a former House Budget Committee staff director, less than than the $5,000 reporting threshold under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.