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France launches US push on climate change cooperation; Canada lobbying reveals tensions with US; El Salvador lobbyists warn of legislative coup: Tuesday’s Daily Digest

France launches PR push for global financial cooperation on climate change

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the Euro Summit in Brussels, Belgium on Dec. 13, 2019 / photo by Nicolas Economou via Shutterstock

France has launched a public relations campaign to boost the profile of the French-led effort to bring together the world’s public development banks in tackling climate change and other global challenges.

The French Development Agency (AFD) has hired US-based Portland PR Inc. to reach out to English-language media about the new initiative that was unveiled last fall. The contract is for $56,000 and runs from Dec. 3, 2020 until April 16, 2021.

The international partnership was announced at the Finance in Common Summit during the Paris Peace Forum in November 2020. Convened by the AFD under the patronage of French President Emmanuel Macron, the first global summit of the world’s 450 public development banks promised closer cooperation in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic, fighting climate change and biodiversity loss, and achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

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Canada lobbying reveals tensions with US

Pins protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline sit on a table outside a Jan. 18, 2014 hearing in Grand Island, Nebraska / Dave Weaver

US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had nothing but kind words for each other at Tuesday’s virtual summit.

But behind the scenes, the money Canadians are pouring into lobbying and public relations campaigns reveals the ongoing tensions with their neighbor to the south.

The province of Alberta, which is part-owner of the Keystone XL pipeline that Biden nixed on his first day on office, is spending $128,000 a month on a trio of firms to lobby on energy and other matters. The effort is overseen by Alberta’s senior representative to the US, James Rajotte, a former conservative member of parliament who was part of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group for 10 years.

Meanwhile at the other end of the country, Quebec public utility Hydro-Quebec recently signed a $449,000 contract extension with Washington PR firm Forbes Tate Partners as it continues to fight US environmentalists opposed to its proposed power line to New England. On Monday Maine’s secretary of State said opponents of the project had gathered enough signatures to put the issue to a vote this November.

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New in lobbying

Americas

El Salvador: Lobbyists for El Salvador are getting ahead of next week’s parliamentary elections by helping push the narrative that President Nayib Bukele‘s new Nuevas Ideas party is all but assured victory barring “fraud or false disputes over outcomes.” Opposition lawmakers earlier this month proposed removing Bukele from office, sparking accusations from his supporters of a “legislative coup” aimed at skewing the election results. “The new U.S. Administration should look calmly at Bukele’s record to date, and his plans once he has the support of the National Assembly in May,” Vice President Felix Ulloa wrote in an op-ed distributed by Invest El Salvador. “Together, they will bring the peace dividend to the people of El Salvador, which they have been denied for nearly three decades. This is a rare opportunity for political stability and progress, and it is within our reach. Everyone should be pulling in the same direction to grasp this historic opportunity and not allow false accusations or electoral manipulation to derail El Salvador’s stability yet again.”

Invest El Salvador Inc. of Washington registered as a foreign agent for the government of El Salvador last fall. The company is to be paid $65,000 per month from Nov. 1, 2020 through Oct. 31, 2021. The group in turn hired Foreign Advisory Services of Washington for $7,500 per month to “work to improve bilateral United States-El Salvador communications, promote foreign direct investment into El Salvador, and work with the Salvadorian diaspora.”

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Asia

Kazakhstan: Mercury Public Affairs has terminated Senior Vice President Jennifer Kaufmann‘s registration as a foreign agent for Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Justice. Mercury is registered on the account as a subcontractor to Los Angeles law firm Latham & Watkins as part of a team of law and public relations firms helping the Central Asian nation in a $500 million legal fight with Moldovan businessman Anatolie Stati. The two parties have been battling in US and European courts for years over Kazakhstan’s seizure of Stati’s petroleum operations in 2010. This was Kaufman’s only registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Middle East

Qatar: The Embassy of Qatar has officially slashed its monthly payment to Nelson Mullins from $125,000 a month to $110,000 starting March 1 after Nelson Mullins lobbyist Bob Crowe left to start his own firm. Crowe will lobby directly for the embassy.

Saudi Arabia: Hogan Lovells lobbyists Ivan Zapien and Norm Coleman, a former Republican senator from Minnesota, reached out to dozens of congressional offices last week to urge lawmakers to denounce the offensive against the city of Marib by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. “Public statements from your Member of Congress in calling out the Houthis for their intransigence will send a strong message to the Houthis that will hopefully contribute to advancing the political process,” they wrote.

President Joe Biden earlier this month ended US military support for the Saudi-led coalition in the war and appointed veteran diplomat Timothy Lenderking as special envoy to the country. Coleman and Zapien wrote that the Saudis welcome diplomacy. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seeks a political resolution to the conflict in Yemen in accordance with applicable UN Security Council Resolutions,” they wrote. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is committed to working with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and newly appointed US Special Envoy Tim Lenderking in order to achieve a negotiated settlement to the conflict.”

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Turkey: Mercury Public Affairs has terminated associate Amaris Cockfield‘s registration as a foreign agent for the Turkey-US Business Council (TAIK). Cockfield, who previously served as the director of communications for the New York State Assembly, was registered to provide public relations consulting services for TAIK for only one month. This was her only registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).


CAUGHT OUR EYE

Foreign Policy reports that the Joe Biden is punting on new sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, infuriating hardliners in Congress. A new congressionally mandated report does not cite any Russian ships that have been identified in recent reports as working on the project (one ship, the Fortuna, was sanctioned on the tail end of the Donald Trump administration). Foreign Lobby Report reported last week that the Ukrainian gas industry has been pushing for sanctions on a Russian supply ship via its lobby firm Yorktown Solutions, which recently renewed its $960,000-a-year contract with the Ukrainians.

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Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera is launching a new US digital platform aimed at a right-wing audience that has soured on traditional news outlets, Politico reports. Rightly will be led by Fox News veteran Scott Norvell and its first show, opinion-led interview program “Right Now with Stephen Kent,”  will start airing Thursday. The development is particularly surprising given that right-wing lawmakers on Capitol Hill — with the blessing of the United Arab Emirates — have long pushed the Department of Justice to force Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent of Doha.

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Saudi Arabia continues to suffer from bad publicity despite a multi-million-dollar lobbying and public relations operation. In the latest blow to the kingdom’s image in the United States, the victims of the 2019 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola and their families on Monday sued Saudi Arabia, alleging that the country knew of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani‘s association with Al Qaeda but did not prevent him from participating in the military training program with the US. Alshamrani shot and killed three sailors at the air station.

The family of an Iranian-American detained in Iran and his father who cannot leave the country has called on President Joe Biden to make their release a precondition of any new nuclear deal, Reuters reports. Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi was arrested by Iranian security forces in October 2015. His father Baquer Namazi was detained a few months later when he tried to visit his son. Biden has demonstrated interest in restarting nuclear talks with Iran, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday during CBS News’ Face the Nation that the US has started to communicate with the country about its detention of American citizens, which he described as a significant priority for the Biden administration. Sullivan added that the administration “will not accept a long-term proposition where [the Iranians] continue to hold Americans in an unjust and unlawful manner.” 

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