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Ecuador trade deal gains traction on Capitol Hill after massive lobbying push; Ethiopia lobbies against Risch resolution; Armenian lobby bands with Kurdish party as Turkey weighs ban: Friday’s Daily Digest

Ecuador trade deal gains traction on Capitol Hill after massive lobbying push

Ecuadorean Minister Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries Ivan Ontaneda meets virtually with US interlocutors this week

Ecuador’s massive lobbying investment in a US trade deal is starting to pay off, with the government’s top negotiator scoring virtual meetings with key members of Congress this week. The Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries signed a 7-month, $900,000 agreement with Arnold & Porter in November with the goal of “promoting interests in furthering bilateral trade and investment.” This week Minister Ivan Ontaneda kicked off trade talks in earnest with a slew of meetings with members of both parties as well as with international organizations and the private sector.

Ontaneda met virtually with at least three members of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade: Reps. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Kevin Hern (R-Okla.). He also met with Congressional Hispanic Chairman Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs panel on the Western Hemisphere, as well as with staff for Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) and Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) and for Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) of the Senate Finance Committee, which handles trade.

Other contacts included the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, as well as the American Farm Bureau and the North American Export Grain Association.

“Ecuador is a core trading partner of the United States, along with being an economic, diplomatic and strategic actor in Latin America,” Rep. Gomez said in a video tweeted out by the ministry (click on tweet below). “We look forward to strengthening that relationship.”

Ecuador’s fortunes were further boosted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s passage Wednesday of a resolution from committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) that notably calls for “strengthening economic relationships with Ecuador” following much improved bilateral ties under President Lenin Moreno, who succeeded anti-US leader Rafael Correa in 2017. Meanwhile one of the vice-presidential candidates in next month’s run-off election was in Washington this week to build support for greater bilateral cooperation in battling COVID-19.

Arnold & Porter’s lobbying is led by former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon and Raul Herrera, a former general counsel to the Inter-American Investment Corporation. Joining the push as Arnold & Porter subcontractors are the Glover Park Group, Benitez Strategies and Ferox Strategies.

Ecuador nabs top US diplomat Tom Shannon for $900,000 trade push

New lobbying filings


Democratic Republic of the Congo: New Jersey consulting firm LFA Holdings terminated its lobbying registration for the embassy of the Democratic of the Republic of Congo in June 2019 after helping to organize meetings for President Felix Tshisekedi during his April 2019 visit to Washington, according to a belated lobbying filing. The firm’s CEO, Luis Aleman, told the Department of Justice when he registered as a foreign agent back in March 2019 that the firm’s compensation for the services would take the form of “discussion of ongoing services.”

Bill Clinton aide hired to help land US visit for Congolese President Tshisekedi

Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s new lobbying firm, Venable, shared a letter from Ambassador Fitsum Arega with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) last week expressing the envoy’s “major concerns” with a bipartisan resolution calling for an end to the violence in the country’s northern Tigray region. The committee passed the resolution from ranking member Jim Risch (R-Idaho) on Wednesday. In his letter, the “dismayed” Arega writes that the resolution’s allegations of human rights abuses by Ethiopian National Defense Forces were based on “erroneous assumptions and unverified and unconfirmed reports and claims generally perpetuated by the diaspora supporters of the TPLF [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] and organizations that have gathered information based on hearsay and rumors.” (the resolution follows a lobbying surge by Ethiopian-American activists in recent weeks). He also condemns the resolution for what he deems to be its “unwarranted equivalency” between the federal government and the TPLF. Oddly, Arega also writes that the resolution calls for a pause in non-life-sustaining US assistance to Ethiopia, when Risch’s staff confirms that the resolution in fact seeks the exact opposite:

“The resolution in its present form does nothing to help strengthen the longstanding relationship between the United States and Ethiopia,” Arega wrote. “We believe a more constructive approach will be for representatives of both governments to engage in a constructive and open dialogue and make progress towards improved bilateral relations and good governance in Ethiopia. Undue pressure on a strong US ally that is undertaking unprecedented democratic and wide-ranging reforms undermines the promising initiatives and sends a negative message to the people of Ethiopia and embolden the TPLF to continue in their criminal activities.”

Ethiopia hires lobbying help amid dual threats from Egypt, human rights critics


Trinidad and Tobago: TheGroupDC has organized a briefing for Trinidadian Ambassador Anthony Phillips-Spencer next week with House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) regarding the security priorities of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM. The March 30 meeting comes as Trinidad’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley is chairing CARICOM for the first half of the year. The group’s priorities include enhanced defense security and strengthened disaster resilience. A brief shared by the lobbying firm with Thompson’s staff ahead of the meeting notably urges passage of last year’s H.R. 7703, which cleared the House but not the Senate. The resolution, which is sponsored by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), would expand the current Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and allocate nearly $75 million per year through 2025 to improve security cooperation, combat drug trafficking, support justice reform and address instability caused by natural disasters in the Caribbean.


Malaysia: A lobbyist for the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council spoke with leaders of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in December to request that the agency update its “woefully dated” warnings about the allergenic risks of latex gloves. The request is spelled out in a newly disclosed email from council lobbyist William Broydrick of Broydrick and Associates to NIOSH chief of staff Frank Hearl. Broydrick also reported getting paid $14,000 from the council in the six months through February. The firm registered as a foreign agent of the council in February 2020 amid US concerns over allegations of forced labor in Malaysia’s world-leading disposable rubber glove industry. The US banned certain imports from the world’s top rubber glove maker, Malaysia’s Top Glove, in July even as it lifted a ban on another Malaysian manufacturer amid shortages of personal protective equipment amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

South Korea: The nonprofit Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI) has a new piece arguing against the United Nations’ 2017 sanctions on energy exports to North Korea, saying they are devastating to civilians. KEI has been registered as a foreign agent of the government-funded Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) since 1990 to “raise awareness of Korea-related issues” through “educational outreach and promoting dialogue.” KEI disclosed receiving $1.4 million from KIEP in the six months through February to organize events around US-Korean relations, including a Dec. 14 Zoom interview with former Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), now the president of the Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC) and a lobbyist for Capitol Counsel.

Korean province hires PR help to restore tourism with North

Middle East

Saudi Arabia: The Saudi government-funded Muslim World League on Wednesday launched the #RejectHate campaign to end Islamophobic content and hate speech on social media. Qorvis Communications, a registered foreign agent for the Mecca-based organization, distributed the announcement to its list of US influencers.

United Arab Emirates: BCW distributed press releases from its client the government of UAE emirate Ras Al Khaimah touting RAK Hospital‘s free online COVID-19 rehabilitation program for patients across the globe and this week’s 2021 Arab Aviation Summit, the first in-person event in the UAE since the start of the covid pandemic.

Caught our eye

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) hosted the US representative of Turkey’s beleaguered pro-Kurdish party this week to tout bilateral cooperation as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) faces the threat of being banned by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s government. “We’re going to focus on this a lot, so I want to make sure that our team, our community, is ready for what might occur,” ANCA President Aram Hamparian said in a video discussion with HDP representative Giran Ozcan. “We look forward to continuing our cooperation, our partnership. As things get difficult, know that we will always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you and the HDP and the great work that you’re doing.”

Ozcan for his part welcomed the support after chief prosecutor Bekir Sahin last week filed an indictment that seeks to dissolve the party, which he accuses of being undemocratic and colluding with the outlawed  Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and seeking to destroy the unity of the state. The indictment also seeks to ban 600 HDP members, including current and former members of parliament, from holding political office. “For us as a party, we are looking at a very tough period coming up now. We’ve been through this for the past five or six years, but the next few weeks and months are probably going to be the most intense battles that we will have faced.”

Armenian diaspora looks to team up with Indian-Americans against Pakistan