Russian Joins WTO

US Urges Congress to Amend Russia Trade Status to Meet WTO Rules

Russia trade status dates to Cold War Current legislation ties trade to human rights Officials call for end to Jackson-Vanik

The Obama administration welcomed Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization Wednesday, but said exporters would be disadvantaged unless Congress repeals Russia's Cold War-era trade status.

"We congratulate Russia on joining the World Trade Organization," the nation's top trade envoy, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said in a statement.

"However, 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."

The acting U.S. commerce secretary, Rebecca Blank, also called on Congress to lift Jackson-Vanik and accord Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), a status required under WTO rules.

"This will increase U.S. exports, strengthen our economy, and create thousands of American jobs," Blank said in a separate statement, noting that Russia is bringing over 140 million consumers and a $1.8 trillion economy into the global rules-based trading system.

"The Obama administration is committed to working with Congress to pass this legislation so that American businesses can enjoy the same benefits in Russia's market that our foreign competitors now have," she said.

President Barack Obama, certain lawmakers and businesses have been pushing Congress to end Russia's status under the Jackson-Vanik amendment that ties trade policy to human rights.

The amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 deprived the Soviet Union of permanent normal trade relations to pressure Moscow to allow Jewish emigration.

Russia and a number of other former communist states are still subject to the restrictive provision.

Jackson-Vanik Conflicts with WTO Rules

Under Jackson-Vanik, the U.S. president must certify to Congress every year that Russia permits free emigration in order to grant PNTR on an annual basis.

But that status conflicts with WTO rules now that Russia has joined the Geneva-based international trade body.

The WTO mandates than any advantage granted by one WTO member to another must be extended to all members.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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