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Russian trade legislation earns praise

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and farm and business groups today praised the introduction of legislation to establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. unveiled legislation today that will terminate the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia and authorize President Barack Obama to extend permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia.

“We welcome the introduction of this bill as Russia is poised to join the World Trade Organization this summer,” Kirk said in a news release.

“Passing this bill will ensure that U.S. businesses, ranchers, farmers, and workers will not be at a disadvantage in the Russian market compared to their global competitors,” Kirk said. “We will continue to work with Congress so that Americans can reap the full benefits of Russia’s WTO membership.”

“Russia PNTR is a critical step towards ensuring the U.S. benefits from Russia’s accession to the WTO and remains competitive in that market,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

“U.S. farmers will have more certain and predictable market access as a result of Russia’s commitment not to raise tariffs on any products above the negotiated rates and to apply international food safety standards in a uniform and transparent manner,” Stallman said.

National Foreign Trade Council President and USAEngage co-chairman Bill Reinsch said, “Russia’s accession to the WTO is imminent, and to ensure that the U.S. economy, exporters and workers are afforded all of the benefits that will flow from it, Congress must take immediate action to approve PNTR legislation.”

“Russia PNTR is the single most pressing issue Congress must take up before the August recess, and we urge members to refrain from supporting any legislation that would needlessly complicate relations with Russia or jeopardize the significant benefits of Russia’s WTO accession and the granting of PNTR,” Reinsch said.

“If Congress fails to act on Russia PNTR legislation, we will be left on the sidelines, and our competitors will have an advantage in the $300 billion Russian import market,” said Frank Vargo, the National Association of Manufacturers vice president for international economic affairs.

“Our economy is stalling, and manufacturers are looking to Washington for policies to keep them competitive in the global marketplace and to create jobs,” Vargo said.