White House’s line on economic aid descends deeper into incoherence

It was six days ago when Donald Trump, after weeks of confusing and contradictory messages, announced that he was pulling the plug on bipartisan talks on an economic aid package. White House officials said the process was over and negotiations would not begin anew before the elections.

It was four days ago when the president, realizing he’d “messed up tactically,” began calling for renewed talks on economic aid.

And it was three days ago when Trump told Rush Limbaugh that his newest position was the opposite of the one he’d held earlier in the week.

“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package than, frankly, either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering,” Trump said on an appearance of the Rush Limbaugh Show on Friday, acknowledging it was “the exact opposite” of his initial demands.

I realize that the president doesn’t generally keep up on current events, but when he mentioned the package “Republicans are offering,” he was referring to the proposal floated by his own White House. It’s his own team that’s responsible for making the “offer,” which in turn created an awkward dynamic: Trump effectively told Limbaugh that he’s against Team Trump’s plan.

While the president was delivering that message, his team was extending a new pitch to congressional Democrats: a $1.8 trillion aid package, well below the $2.4 trillion package House Democrats recently approved, and roughly half the $3.4 trillion proposal Democrats pushed several months ago.

Trump told Fox News yesterday that GOP lawmakers are fully on board with the $1.8 trillion offer. That wasn’t even close to being true: Senate Republicans actually wasted little time letting the White House know they’re staunchly opposed to the latest proposal, as are House Democrats. In fact, if Trump’s comments to Limbaugh were sincere, even he’s against his own White House plan.

If this is all starting to sound like an incoherent mess, it’s not your imagination. The Tax Policy Center’s Renu Zaretsky explained this morning, “In just the past week, Trump has said he wants a big bill, then no bill, then a small bill, then a $1.8 trillion bill, and now, perhaps, an even bigger bill than that. Or not.”

Meanwhile, Larry Kudlow, the top economics voice in the White House, told CNN yesterday that Trump is prepared to accept a deal worth more than $2.2 trillion — effectively killing the $1.8 trillion offer the White House extended on Friday — even as GOP senators tell anyone who’ll listen they want the administration to move in the opposite direction.

Many Americans are wondering if a much-needed economic lifeline is on the way. Alas, I think they should keep their expectations low.

Postscript: Senate Republicans also reportedly complained to the White House on Saturday that Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell “had gone too far in demanding Congress approve sweeping economic relief and that he went out of his lane in making his demands publicly known.”

It’s an odd thing to complain about: Republican senators don’t want to

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C12 invited to discuss COVID-19 and positive economic outlook at the White House

C12 invited to discuss COVID-19 and positive economic outlook at the White House

PR Newswire

SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 1, 2020

CEO Members of C12 met with the Vice President and top economic advisors about the ongoing post-COVID-19 U.S. economic resurgence.

SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — On September 21st, seven C12 CEO members representing diverse industries and workforce contexts met with top economic advisors and policy-makers at the White House. These CEOs were invited to share their perspectives and concerns regarding the country’s post-COVID-19 recovery strategy and to help shape the policies that will affect all Americans over the next 6-12 months. Topics of conversation included bolstering the economy, supporting American jobs, production of the vaccine, and continuing to safely re-open the American economy.

Official White House Photo- Delano T. Scott, Jr. -- This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the Vice President, the First Family, the Second Lady, the Second Family or the White House.
Official White House Photo- Delano T. Scott, Jr. — This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the Vice President, the First Family, the Second Lady, the Second Family or the White House.

“It was both an honor and a humbling experience to meet face-to-face with the top leaders of our country and discuss perhaps the most critical issue of our generation,” said Dave Taylor, CEO of PASLIN and C12 Member. “It was apparent to me that these leaders feel real pain for the losses incurred as a result of the coronavirus, are tirelessly working around the clock to defeat the virus and are doing everything in their power to protect the American people. This experience has strengthened my resolve to pray for and support our country’s leaders so that America can lead the way to heal the rest of the world.”

C12 was invited to the White House as a prominent voice of American businesses operating with both excellence and strong values for people and communities. The organization encourages leaders to steward their civic responsibility by engaging with our government, advocating on behalf of others, and leaning into uncertainty.

“The White House’s pandemic response and recovery efforts impact millions of people. Regardless of person or political party preferences, business leaders have perspective, influence, and a responsibility to care for the people we lead. I’m grateful the COVID Task Force policy team is pursuing voices from the marketplace, and it is a privilege for CEOs from across C12 to be those voices,” said Mike Sharrow, CEO of the C12 Group.

Representing more than 2,600 Members and over 700,000 employees of C12 companies, these CEOs embodied stewardship with dignity, compassion, and boldness.

About C12
C12 Group is the largest network of Christian CEOs and executives working together to

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In economic relief talks, White House and Democrats continue trading proposals, insults

“It’s a good offer but it’s one Nancy Pelosi is not interested in,” McEnany said.

“Nancy Pelosi is not being serious. If she becomes serious then we can have a discussion,” McEnany said.

For her part, Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the GOP’s proposals as too stingy, contending that the administration is focused on protecting tax breaks for the wealthy instead of help for families and children in need. House Democrats had initially sought a $3.4 trillion spending package before bring the package down to around $2.2 trillion.

“This isn’t half a loaf, this is the heel of the loaf,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV of the White House proposal.

Nevertheless, Pelosi and Mnuchin were set to have another conversation Thursday afternoon, a day after they met in person for 90 minutes at the Capitol on Wednesday. The Wednesday meeting was their first in-person discussion since bipartisan coronavirus relief talks collapsed in early August.

Congress is set to adjourn at the end of this week through the election, but before they do Pelosi and Mnuchin are making one last try at a deal.

They remained far apart and seemed almost to be forecasting failure.

Republicans strongly oppose the bill. Democratic leaders canceled a planned vote on it Wednesday but said they planned to move ahead Thursday.

Many House Democratic moderates have been pushing for a new deal — or at least a new vote — in order to show constituents a good-faith effort to find consensus amid worsening economic conditions. Pelosi resisted these demands for weeks.

Pelosi acknowledged Thursday that many of her members are “very eager” to vote on a new bill, but insisted she is, too, adding: “The joy of being part of a dynamic, not rubber stamp, no lockstep caucus is, is, is — wonderful, I have to say.”

The number of people claiming unemployment rose slightly, to 26.5 million, and Americans’ income dropped in August along with the expiration of emergency federal aid programs. Disney announced 28,000 layoffs earlier this week, and major airline companies have indicated tens of thousands of layoffs are possible in coming days without additional federal help. American Airlines has announced it will move forward furloughing 19,000 workers, citing inaction in Congress.

House Democrats’ new bill includes new $1,200 stimulus checks, a renewal of $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, aid to airlines, small business relief, and money for election security, the postal system, vaccine development and distribution, and more.

There is overlap in what Democrats want and the $1.62 trillion offer Mnuchin made to Pelosi on Wednesday, which included $1,200 checks, $400 weekly unemployment benefits, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, among other provisions, according to two people familiar with its contents who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm it. There’s also $250 billion for state and local governments, but Democrats want more.

Details of the proposal were first reported by Roll Call.

Pelosi said Thursday that significant differences remain, including on state and local aid, and Democrats’ demand for a

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House Democrats prepare to vote on new economic relief bill even as Pelosi and Mnuchin keep talking

“We’re going to give it one more serious try to get this done and I think we’re hopeful that we can get something done,” Mnuchin said. “I think there is a reasonable compromise here … It’s something the president very much wants to get done.”

It was unclear, however, if a deal could emerge in time. The House is set to adjourn within days through the election.

In absence of a deal, House Democratic leaders were preparing to move forward as soon as Wednesday with a vote on their $2.2 trillion bill, which is a slimmed-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May.

It includes new stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, state and local aid, and money for schools, the Postal Service, election security and more. There is also payroll assistance for airlines that are facing the prospect of widespread furloughs as soon as Thursday unless a new aid package is passed.

Republicans oppose the bill as too costly and say it contains provisions extraneous to the coronavirus.

“This will be nothing more than fiddling while Rome burns,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Wednesday morning as the House Rules Committee met to agree on rules to debate the legislation.

“We have to move forward because some may be content with doing nothing but we aren’t,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).

Pelosi has been under intense pressure from moderates in her caucus, including some in tough re-election fights, to take new action to address the continued economic and public health ravages of the coronavirus.

However she has shown little sign she’s willing to back down from her $2.2 trillion price tag, with Democrats contending they’ve already compromised. On a private call with House Democrats Wednesday morning, Pelosi said the American people are worth the $2.2 trillion, according to two people on the call who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe it.

She also said that state and local aid and legal liability protections continue to be obstacles to a deal. Republicans and the Trump administration favor liability protections Democrats oppose, while opposing the generous state and local aid Democrats want. The Democrats’ new bill has about $500 billion for state and local governments, about half as much as the original Heroes Act.

Congress passed four bills totaling an unprecedented $3 trillion in aid in the spring, but since then the bipartisan urgency that existed at the beginning of the pandemic has dissipated and the Senate hasnt passed a related bill since. Talks involving Mnuchin and Pelosi collapsed in August, and were renewed only a few days ago. Despite public expressions of optimism from Pelosi and Mnuchin, there is widespread pessimism about their ability to get a deal.

Millions remain unemployed and there are signs that the economic recovery that emerged over the summer is slowing down. Nevertheless Trump administration continue to sound bullish about the economy.

“The economy is doing much better than anyone expected. … You’ve seen a very good rebound and you’re

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Economic relief talks between White House and Pelosi suddenly resume as House Democrats make new offer

The two have negotiated extensively this year on economic relief bills. They initially found success but they have been at odds in recent months and talks have repeatedly broken down. They are running out of time to reach an agreement before the November elections, but their planned talks this week appear to be the most extensive engagement they have had in more than a month.

Democrats described their new offer as an updated version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May, which the White House and Senate Republicans dismissed as far too costly. Senate Republicans and Mnuchin have also said $2.2 trillion is too much to spend, but Mnuchin has said he is open to negotiations. It was not immediately clear if the talks would bear fruit or whether Democratic leaders would use the bill to provide political cover for moderate House Democrats, who have grown increasingly anxious over Congress’s recent inaction on pandemic relief legislation.

As the pandemic worsened earlier this year and many businesses shut down, Congress passed four bipartisan bills in March and April that pumped close to $3 trillion into the economy. But they have not passed an economic-relief law since then. Talks involving Mnuchin and Pelosi collapsed in early August and, before now, had shown little sign of reviving.

Mnuchin has said his priorities in a new round of spending would be aid for small businesses and children, among others. He has also talked about providing more assistance to the airline industry and approving another round of stimulus checks. There is some overlap in the White House’s goals with the things Democrats included in their new bill.

For example, the Democrats’ bill would extend the $32 billion payroll support program for the airline industry, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, threatening tens of thousands of jobs. It would include another round of $1,200 stimulus payments as well as renew the expired unemployment benefits of $600 per week.

The bill would fund a range of other programs, including many that Republicans have supported. It would, for example, extend the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and provide $182 billion for K-12 schools and $39 billion for postsecondary schools. An additional $57 billion would go towards other child care costs.

The biggest budget item in the package would be $436 billion in aid to states, cities, territorial and tribal governments that have experienced a major budget crunch this year. That’s about half as much as the amount for cities and states that was included in the original Heroes Act, because the time period for funding state and local budgets was reduced. The White House has mostly opposed more funding for states and cities, and Trump has said that was one of the biggest sticking points in past discussions.

There would be an assortment of other programs supported by the bill, including $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing.

“Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill,

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Stimulus checks are back in play as Trump move closer to Pelosi in economic relief push

Now the California Democrat faces a crucial decision: Does she try to negotiate an agreement with a White House that suddenly seems ready to deal or continue to hold her ground and make Trump, facing his own election woes, swallow the sweeping $2.2 trillion bill she has long demanded?

Early signs suggest Pelosi is still not ready to budge.

“Great, call me when he’s at $2.2 trillion,” Pelosi told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a private call Wednesday, referring to Trump, according to two people with knowledge of her comments who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay them.

Holding her ground with Trump may be the easy part. It also means facing down an insurrection from the very members she has long tried hardest to protect, the swing-seat Democrats whose victories in GOP-leaning districts returned Democrats to the House majority last year.

These centrist Democrats, fearful of constituent blowback, are pushing Pelosi to return to the negotiating table and strike a deal with Trump on an expansive relief package — even if she can’t get the $2.2 trillion she wants. Congress has already approved roughly $3 trillion in emergency spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and Pelosi has called for much more. The latest Republican offer, the one Trump dismissed, was closer to $300 billion.

There’s a palpable fear among Democrats that voters will blame them on Election Day should they appear to be putting their own reelections ahead of what’s good for Americans.

“We should have that same level of urgency that we had when we were dealing with this in March and April,” said Rep. Andy Kim, who flipped a GOP district in New Jersey last election. “And I don’t really get that sense that that type of just timeliness and that urgency is underlying what everybody here is feeling right now.”

The infighting has created an odd situation whereby Pelosi’s centrist members have applauded the position of a president they voted to impeach just months ago. Some of these moderates offered kudos for Trump on Wednesday after he praised a $1.5 trillion bipartisan coronavirus deal put forward by the Problem Solvers Caucus — a group of 50 pragmatic-minded Republicans and Democrats in the House — and tweeted that his own party should consider “much higher numbers,” signaling his openness to a deal.

“The tweet that Trump just sent out saying that he was open to more resources for the American people is a good thing because they need more resources,” said Blue Dog Coalition leader Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.). “We can argue about what the specifics of a plan should look like, but the important thing is that we get back to the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that can be passed into law.”

Pelosi, meanwhile, had dismissed the Problem Solvers pitch, and her top policy chairmen put out a statement saying the proposal “falls short” and “leaves too many needs unmet.”

The diss by senior House Democrats infuriated many frontliners eager to

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Biden White House economic team could include Elizabeth Warren, Lael Brainard

Democratic presidential hopefuls Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden shake hands as they arrive onstage for the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Despite an uncertain economic outlook and a diverse array of advisors on Joe Biden’s economic team, Wall Street speculators and Beltway wonks have nonetheless drummed up a list of policymakers who could play roles in a potential Biden White House.

The cast ranges from progressive favorite Sen. Elizabeth Warren to equitability economist Heather Boushey. Longtime Biden confidant Jared Bernstein is also thought to be a top contender for a role, while others speculate that Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard could be on the short list.

CNBC reached out to several economists and politicians who reportedly are advising the Biden campaign. All declined to offer comment for this story and on their interactions with the campaign.

The economy — along with the coronavirus crisis itself — are likely to be Biden’s top priorities should he defeat President Donald Trump in November. The former vice president holds a lead of approximately 7 percentage points in polling averages and narrowly edges Trump in several swing-state polls.

The U.S. unemployment rate is still over 8%, more than 13 million American workers continue to receive unemployment benefits, and Covid-19 remains far from contained and could rebound this fall as people spend more time indoors.

So whom Biden chooses to lead the White House’s economic policy will likely have more impact than usual for a newly elected president.

“Steven Mnuchin emerged as the key negotiator between House Democrats and the White House, and demonstrated the key role the secretary of Treasury can play,” wrote Tom Block, policy analyst at FundStrat Global Advisors. “If VP Biden wins, getting the economy back on track will undoubtedly be his highest priority.”

Here some of the people considered to be leading candidates for economic roles in a potential Biden administration.

Elizabeth Warren

No conversation about Biden’s future Cabinet would be complete without a mention of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose crusader-like devotion to holding Wall Street accountable has made her something of a progressive icon.

Though she was among Biden’s challengers in the Democratic primary, her deep knowledge of the U.S. financial system and bankruptcy law makes her a compelling contender for Treasury secretary. She and Biden now reportedly hold regular phone calls to discuss policy. Biden has touted Warren-endorsed ideas ranging from topics such as personal bankruptcy and expanding Social Security to ending student-loan debt for millions.

But a key force that could potentially doom Warren’s appointment to lead the Treasury is her indisputable value to Democrats as a senator.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivers a campaign speech at East Los Angeles College on March 2, 2020 in Monterey Park, California.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

Even if Biden wins the White House, the composition of the Senate is far less certain and Democrats may be hard-pressed to

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Pelosi says House will stay in session until new deal reached on economic relief

The House is scheduled to adjourn at the end of this month until after the election. Bipartisan talks on a new relief measure collapsed last month and have not been revived, leading to speculation that Congress and the administration will be unable to reach a bipartisan accord before Election Day.

White House adviser Jared Kushner suggested in an interview on CNBC Tuesday that a deal might have to wait.

“The hope is we’ll still get to a deal. It may have to be after the election,” Kushner said.

The two sides have been far apart. On Tuesday’s call Pelosi also rejected the notion of a slimmed-down or “skinny” bill such as the $300 billion measure Democrats blocked last week in the Senate.

“A skinny bill is not a deal. It’s a Republican bill,” she said on the conference call.

Pelosi has continued to hold out for legislation with a pricetag of at least $2 trillion that would include generous aid for cities and states, as well as unemployment and nutrition assistance, stimulus checks for individual Americans, money for coronavirus testing and tracing, help for the Post Office and elections, and more.

But with Republicans unwilling to agree to such expensive legislation, some Democrats have begun to discuss other options.

The centrist-leaning New Democrat Coalition, whose members include multiple freshman lawmakers in tough re-election fights, held a conference call on Monday night to emphasize the need for action before Congress adjourns for the recess. Lawmakers in the group said they supported Pelosi and wanted a good bill, but also suggested that action to extend unemployment insurance and a few other aid programs would be better than nothing.

The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House released their own attempted compromise Tuesday morning, a $1.5 trillion proposal that could grow larger or smaller depending on infection rates and vaccine progress.

Congress passed four bills totaling about $3 trillion in aid in March and April, but has not acted since. The House passed another $3.4 trillion bill in May, but Senate Republicans and the administration held off on restarting negotiations until July. Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) held multiple hours of talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows but ultimately got nowhere.

Meanwhile many of the programs agreed to in the initial round of spending have expired, including a $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefit that ran out July 31. President Trump stepped in last month with some limited executive actions, including replacing the $600 benefit with one half that size, but the money for that is now expiring.

Some 30 million Americans are currently relying on some type of unemployment assistance. Others face the prospect of homelessness or poverty, and state and municipal coffers are running dry because of the drop in tax revenue, which has already led to mass layoffs.

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Islanders fear ‘economic clearance’ over house prices

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Uist in the Western Isles has been suggested as the location for a property trial

Community figures have warned that rising property prices in the Hebrides, Western Isles and Skye are preventing locals from buying a home.

In an open letter they described the situation as akin to an “economic clearance” that was threatening the sustainability of the islands.

They said young islanders could not compete with offers made by buyers from elsewhere in the UK.

It follows claims parts of Scotland are seeing a post-lockdown property boom.

The uptick in interest has been put down to previously office-based staff being able to work from home and perceived lower rates of Covid-19.

The letter’s signatories – which includes crofters, development officers and Gaelic campaigners – said 40% of housing stock on both Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and West Harris in the Western Isles were holiday homes.

They said the availability of affordable properties for young islanders had been a long-running problem, but was expected to worsen post-lockdown.

They pointed to reports of people across the UK looking to relocate to the Highlands and Islands, and having the means to make higher offers than local buyers.

‘Positive action’

The letter said: “Part-time residencies do not sustain our communities and we should therefore ensure that houses are bought with the intention of being a primary residency.

“Inaction will allow this economic clearance to be consolidated in history.”

The use of the term “clearance” echoes back to the Highland clearances when tenants were evicted from land in the 18th and 19th Centuries so landlords could increase their income.

The letter suggests Uist in the Western Isles be used as a trial location where properties are advertised locally in the first instance prior to being listed on the national market.

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Image caption

The letter said 40% of property on Tiree was used as a second home

The letter said: “A recent example of a house in Uist becoming available for rental shows the scope for positive action.

“The owner agreed that the house should first be advertised to young locals, and a number of applications were received.

“They seized this opportunity to invest in the community by offering the house to a returning young couple with three children.”

The letter comes after concerns were raised that Gaelic speakers among the islands’ communities could vanish within 10 years.

Researchers said daily use of Gaelic was currently too low to sustain it as a community language in the future.

The letter’s signatories include Pàdruig Morrison, a Uist crofter, researcher and musician and architect and Gaelic campaigner Martin Baillie, from Skye.

Uist businesswoman Emma Axelsson and crofter Fiona NicÌosaig have also signed it.

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Serbia, Kosovo sign economic pact at White House

Former foes Kosovo and Serbia have agreed on a historic pact to normalize economic relations, US President Donald Trump announced Friday at the White House.

And in a fresh diplomatic success for the US leader, both Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to improve their relations with Israel — Kosovo will formally recognize the Jewish state and Serbia will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

“A truly historic day,” Trump said, with Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sitting beside him in the Oval Office.

“By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a real breakthrough on economic cooperation across a broad range of issues.”

Trump praised his special emissary Richard Grenell for bringing the two sides together, two decades after they fought a bloody war that left 13,000 dead. 

“It took decades because you didn’t have anybody trying to get it done,” Trump said of the agreement.

“There was a lot of fighting and now there’s a lot of love,” he said. “Economics can bring people together.”

Speaking to reporters in the White House, Vucic said Trump had done a “great job,” praising his commitment to the Balkan region, while Hoti called it a big step forward — though neither Serbia nor its former territory formally recognize the other.

Kosovo President Hashim Thaci hailed the agreement in a statement, praising Trump for advancing the cause “of peace, economic development and Euro-Atlantic future.”

Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, “must now continue to work for membership in international organizations and for new recognitions, for our country to be fully consolidated domestically and internationally,” he wrote.

Details of the agreement were not immediately available, but it was expected to be limited to the normalization of some economic ties, easing commerce and opening up road, rail and air links between the former Balkan war foes.

The talks included representatives of major US economic aid agencies including the Export-Import Bank, suggesting US financial support was involved in bringing the two sides together.

The European Union has brokered talks for nearly a decade to thaw the bitter relationship between Serbia and its former territory, but many of the agreements they set have not been implemented.

An effort focused on business and commerce was launched more recently by US officials.

But Serbia made clear during the talks that it would not go as far as recognizing Kosovo as a fully-fledged state.

The Kosovo-Serbia pact, and their agreements to improve relations with Israel, added to Trump’s recent record of diplomatic successes.

Last month, Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced they would normalize relations after US-brokered negotiations.  

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