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Finance, Ways and Means leaders write Kirk on Russia, WTO

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich, are all urging U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to insist that Russia meet a high standard and ensure a level playing field for U.S. businesses and workers, including meat producers, in the negotiations for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

In a letter to Kirk released Saturday, the four leaders noted that Russia’s actions have blocked market access for U.S. agricultural products through unscientific health and safety requirements.

In addition to urging Kirk to be careful about intellectual property and the auto sector, the four leaders wrote, “We must also emphasize the importance of ensuring that Russia is prepared, and willing, to comply with the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement. Russia’s track record in this area has not been good. It has blocked market access for certain U.S. agricultural products through unscientific health and safety requirements, and it has provided little or no guidance about how to comply with these requirements.

“Russia’s actions have directly blocked U.S. exports and created significant uncertainty for U.S. exporters,” the letter continued. “Russia must also commit to lower its tariff and quota barriers to U.S. agriculture products.”

The four leaders also noted that both houses of Congress must vote to remove Russia from Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974 “before the United States can expect to enjoy the full benefits of Russian membership in the WTO.”

“A high standard accession package will be essential to ensuring support for granting Russia permanent normal trade relations by removing it from Title IV,” the letter said.