President Trump’s schedule (EDT):
9:30 AM: Departs the White House, South Lawn;
12:05 PM: Arrives at Atlantic Aviation, 3800 Southern Boulevard, West Palm Beach, FL; and
2:00 PM: Hosts a meeting with Caribbean leaders from The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, FL.
“Trump Says China Deal Is ‘Close’ Ahead of Fresh Round of Talks.” This morning’s Bloomberg article leads with:
President Donald Trump said Friday that a trade deal with China is close as he prepared to send his negotiators to Beijing for a fresh round of talks next week, but U.S. officials downplayed the prospect of a swift conclusion.Trump has said that he wants an agreement that could be enforced, not a quick deal. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading the talks for Trump, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for meetings at the end of next week, and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will then come to Washington in April to continue the discussions, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.“I think we’re getting very close,” Trump said in an interview broadcast on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings With Maria” on Friday. “That doesn’t mean we get there, but I think we’re getting very close.”
“Drug Company Protections Are Latest Stumbling Block for Nafta Rewrite.” Yesterday’s New York Timesarticle led with:
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s ability to get his revised North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress may hinge on a little-noticed provision governing intellectual property protections for new pharmaceutical products.Congressional Democrats have seized on measures in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that establish protections for drug companies, saying they are a boon to the pharmaceutical industry and could undermine efforts to make American health care more affordable.The issue is the latest complication in Mr. Trump’s yearslong effort to rip up Nafta and rewrite the rules of trade with Canada and Mexico. While Mr. Trump secured Canada’s and Mexico’s signoff on the new agreement last year, the trade pact must be ratified by legislators in all three countries, including by Congress.Democrats, who now control the House, have already made it clear that they will not approve the new trade deal without significant changes to labor and environmental provisions. Now, they are also looking for revisions to the trade deal’s pharmaceutical provisions, in particular a measure providing an advanced class of drugs called biologics 10 years of protection from cheaper alternatives.
“Private Health Insurance: Enrollment Remains Concentrated among Few Issuers, including in Exchanges.” Yesterday’s 69-page Government Accountability Office report stated:
Enrollment in private health insurance plans continued to be concentrated among a small number of issuers in 2015 and 2016. In the overall large group market (coverage offered by large employers), small group market (coverage offered by small employers), and individual market (coverage sold directly to individuals), the three largest issuers held 80 percent of the market or more in at least 37 of 51 states. This is similar to what GAO previously reported for 2011 through 2014.
Tax Refunds of $177.2 b. through March 15 versus $182.8 b. last year. Yesterday, the IRS posted the latest weekly filing season statistics here. The average refund is almost exactly equal to last year’s, and the 3.1% refund shortfall is in line with 3.0% fewer returns with refund that have been process so far.