Augh­in­ish Alu­mina:

Vote to be forced on trea­sury de­ci­sion to lift em­bargo on par­ent Rus­sian firm Rusal Un­ease that move sig­nals soft­en­ing of ap­proach by US to­wards Rus­sian oli­garchs

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SUZANNE LYNCH in Wash­ing­ton

A vote may be taken in the US Se­nate this week on a de­ci­sion to lift sanc­tions on Rusal, the par­ent com­pany of Augh­in­ish Alu­mina:

Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader Chuck Schumer has said he will force a vote this week on the trea­sury’s de­ci­sion to lift sanc­tions on Rus­sian gi­ant Rusal, the par­ent com­pany of Augh­in­ish Alu­mina in Lim­er­ick.

The de­vel­op­ment is the lat­est sign of grow­ing dis­con­tent among Democrats about the de­ci­sion to lift the sanc­tions in De­cem­ber. This was a move that was wel­comed by sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ire­land.

“I have con­cluded that the trea­sury depart­ment’s pro­posal is flawed and fails to suf­fi­ciently limit Oleg Deri­paska’s con­trol and in­flu­ence of these com­pa­nies. And the Se­nate should move to block this mis­guided ef­fort by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and keep these sanc­tions in place,” said Mr Schumer on Satur­day.

Democrats are con­cerned that the trea­sury’s de­ci­sion to change its sanc­tion pol­icy to­wards Rusal sig­nals a soft­en­ing of ap­proach by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion con­cern­ing Rus­sia and oli­garchs close to Pres­i­dent Putin. Mr Schumer high­lighted, in par­tic­u­lar, pos­si­ble links be­tween Mr Deri­paska and Paul Manafort who was Mr Trump’s cam­paign man­ager and is cen­tral to the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Jeop­ar­dise mar­kets

The Euro­pean Union has ar­gued that the de­ci­sion to sanc­tion com­pa­nies con­trolled by Mr Deri­paska could in­ad­ver­tently jeop­ar­dise Euro­pean and global alu­minium mar­kets and af­fect the Augh­in­ish Alu­mina plant in Lim­er­ick, which pro­vides 30 per cent of Europe’s alu­mina.

Am­bas­sadors from sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries – in­clud­ing Ire­land Am­bas­sador to the United States Dan Mul­hall – have urged Con­gress to sup­port last month’s de­ci­sion to lift the sanc­tions. In a let­ter sent to House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Se­na­tor Schumer the am­bas­sadors said that, while they recog­nise the ra­tio­nale un­der which Rus­sian oli­garchs had been sanc­tioned, “it is cru­cial that the sanc­tions avoid un­in­tended con­se­quences for Euro­pean com­pa­nies”.

Alu­minum plants “in Aus­tria, France, Ger­many, Ire­land, Italy, Swe­den and the United King­dom have faced in­creased prices and sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in main­tain­ing their daily op­er­a­tions”, states the let­ter.

With Repub­li­cans com­mand­ing a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, Democrats would need some Repub­li­cans to split with Pres­i­dent Trump and vote against lift­ing the sanc­tions if a bal­lot is held in the US se­nate.

Clas­si­fied brief­ing

Some Democrats, in­clud­ing the chair­man of the ways and means com­mit­tee Richard Neal, have called on trea­sury sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin to de­lay the de­ci­sion. Mr Neal wrote to Mr Mnuchin fol­low­ing a clas­si­fied brief­ing on Thurs­day dur­ing which the trea­sury sec­re­tary briefed con­gres­sional lead­ers on the de­ci­sion to lift the sanc­tion.

Ms Pelosi blasted Mr Mnuchin after the brief­ing, brand­ing it “one of the worst clas­si­fied brief­ings we’ve re­ceived from the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion”, de­spite “stiff com­pe­ti­tion”.

After the meet­ing the trea­sury depart­ment high­lighted the fact that Mr Deri­paska has re­lin­quished con­trol of the com­pany and pledged to en­sure that he com­plies with those terms.

“These en­ti­ties are un­der­go­ing sig­nif­i­cant re­struc­tur­ing and gover­nance changes that sever Deri­paska’s con­trol and sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ish his own­er­ship,” said Mr Mnuchin said. “Trea­sury will be vig­i­lant in en­sur­ing that EN+ and Rusal meet these com­mit­ments. If these com­pa­nies fail to com­ply with the terms, they will face very real and swift con­se­quences, in­clud­ing the reim­po­si­tion of sanc­tions.”

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