The Chinese business sector must be in trouble. Why else would President Obama be sending taxpayer dollars there to modernize China’s energy grid, hire private-sector consultants to help its Ministry of Environmental Protection and separately help to modify the nation’s corporate laws?
The U.S. Trade & Development Agency, or USTDA – technically designated as an “independent” White House agency – is funding these and other initiatives, all of which aid China while simultaneously benefiting U.S. contractors.
While USTDA arguably is a relatively small agency – its FY 2014 budget request is just under $63 million – it consistently undergoes criticism and calls for closure. Former Rep. Ron Paul and free-market think tanks such as the Cato Institute regularly denounce it as among the most duplicative and wasteful of all federal entities.
Despite its relatively small budget, the agency often pays contractors to help foreign-aid recipients to secure financial assistance via other U.S. taxpayer-funded entities, such as the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
USTDA, Ex-Im Bank and OPIC consequently are among the most egregious examples of “corporate welfare waste,” the Cato Institute concluded in a 2005 report. These and similar organizations “should be terminated,” contends the report’s author, Chris Edwards.
USTDA’s most recent foray into China was in a series of U.S.-funded Climate Change Working Group workshops emerging from the Fifth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
President Obama’s special representatives for the recent series of meetings were Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.
The U.S. consequently will provide a $378,000 grant to hire a contractor to set up Phase III information-sharing workshops to “keep Chinese government and industry community informed of the latest U.S. smart grid technologies.”
In a separate endeavor, it will cost U.S. taxpayers $240,000 to plan and execute Phase III of USTDA’s Anti-Monopoly Law Program, or AML III, for which a contractor will arrange workshops over the course of 20 months for “key policymakers, regulators and industry representatives from both the U.S. and China.”
Four distinct two-day workshops each will accommodate “50-75 Chinese participants.”
Key Chinese stakeholders include China’s Ministry of Commerce – the “key enforcer of the AML’s merger provisions” – and China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Among a lengthy list of key U.S. stakeholders are the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce/American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-China Business Council.
The goal of the workshops is to exchange information to implement China’s new anti-monopoly law.
The Obama administration says the law is lacking since it exempts “specific Chinese industries and state-owned enterprises from the application of the law,” according to a Statement of Work that WND located via routine database research.
As WND additionally reported, as part of a broader global “climate change” program worth hundreds of millions of dollars, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection had asked USTDA to help it with “pollution reduction activities” for which the agency intends to market “U.S. expertise and technology.”
USTDA offered a $60,000 China Environmental Sector Opportunities grant to send a “definitional mission” contractor to Beijing and up to three other sites in China for 10 business days “to identify potential project opportunities in air pollution reduction and water quality improvement.”
Late last year, the administration agreed initially to award a $378,000 grant so that providers of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” equipment and services can travel to China to further examine such potential opportunities.
USTDA assistance to China had been cut off after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
President Bill Clinton, however, in one of his final acts in office, restored USTDA’s ability to assist the Chinese government.
On Jan. 20, 2001, Clinton notified Congress he was lifting the suspension, claiming, among other justifications, that the policy change was warranted as it would help boost U.S. exports.
Clinton also said the move “would reflect our humanitarian concern for the basic human needs of the Chinese people, who suffer from some of the worst pollution in the world.”
The focus of the aid initially must center upon energy and the environment, he told Congress.
President George W. Bush, in turn, accelerated the China-assistance programs via USTDA, launching initiatives such as the Shuangdao Bay Petrochemical Complex Project.
A direct beneficiary of the $700,000 grant was the Dalian Shide Group – a multinational company jointly owned by the Saudi Arabian government and a Chinese conglomerate.
More recent USTDA projects in China include the hiring of a former agency staffer to conduct a “desk study” for the China Green Data Center Demo Project.
No further information is available aside from a $7,000 contract-award given to Doug Shuster, proprietor of Emerging Markets Infrastructure LLC, a Northern Virginia private consulting firm.
According to Shuster’s LinkedIn page as well as USTDA annual reports, he formerly worked as the agency’s manager for business development in Sub-Saharan Africa and as director of the regional Sub-Saharan Africa office, based in Johannesburg.
Since leaving USTDA in October 2008, Shuster has been paid to perform numerous other studies for his former employer, based on a review of agency annual reports as well as the FedBizOpps contractor database.
That same year, the agency paid him $123,174 to provide “technical assistance” in a regional Sub-Saharan Africa project for which no further information is available.
Neither through a search of FedBizOpps nor a search of the USTDA online document library was anything found specific to contracts awarded to Shuster or to his company in any 2008 endeavors.
The next USTDA project for which Shuster secured a contract was a $60,000 award the agency granted him in 2011 for a definitional mission to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, where he evaluated a proposed “gas utilization and coal bed methane” project.
He also earned an additional $2,000 that year to perform a desk study of an Angola electricity distribution-modernization project. In 2012, Shuster earned $5,000 and $3,000 for separate desk studies of an information and communications technology project for the National Bank of Rwanda.
USTDA listed the contract awards to Shuster in its annual report but via FedBizOpps only published the initial solicitation for bids on the Rwandan endeavor.