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Kirk, NFTC call on Congress to vote on Russia PNTR

With Russia formally admitted to the World Trade Organization this week, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and the National Foreign Trade Council have both called on Congress to vote as soon as possible on granting Russia the permanent normal trade relations status.

Ron Kirk
Ron Kirk
“In order for American manufacturers, workers, service providers, farmers and ranchers to take full advantage of Russia’s WTO membership, Congress must act to terminate Jackson-Vanik and authorize permanent normal trade relations for Russia,” Kirk said in a news release on Wednesday.

“As President Obama has said, he is committed to working with Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible, so American businesses will not be at a competitive disadvantage in Russian markets,” Kirk said.

USTR noted in the release that the Senate Finance Committee on July 18 approved a bill terminating the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment and authorizing Obama to extend PNTR to Russia and that on July 26, the House Ways & Means Committee approved a similar bill.

Bill Reinsch
Bill Reinsch
National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch supported the move in a news release Wednesday.

“Now that Russia has acceded to the WTO, the United States has an opportunity to become a bigger economic player in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world – but only if Congress passes PNTR legislation,” Reinsch said.

“Congress must take action on PNTR legislation in September. If Congress does not act quickly, American companies, exporters and workers will be at a competitive disadvantage in the Russian market,” he said.

“Granting permanent normal trade relations is not a favor to Russia, instead it is necessary step to help stimulate U.S. economic growth and job creation by expanding trade with the world’s ninth-largest economy. The U.S cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity,” said NFTC Vice President Dan O’Flaherty.

The bills have some differences and contain some provisions that could jeopardize the benefits of Russia’s WTO accession or unnecessarily complicate U.S.-Russia relations, namely the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, Reinsch said.

“However, the House version of the act is preferable to the Senate version, as its scope is limited to Russia,” Reinsch concluded.

In its news release, NFTC said it believes the House has scheduled a vote, but Inside U.S. Trade reported today that House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said this week that a vote before the election is “not going to be easy" due to union opposition.

Dreier said in an interview Wednesday that Obama should talk with union leaders in order to “blunt” their opposition and should make personal calls to House Democrats to vote in favor of Russia's removal from Jackson-Vanik, Inside U.S. Trade reported.