Industry urges Senate PNTR approval for Russia
The U.S. House on Friday approved the 2012 Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act legislation, which if approved by the Senate and signed by the president would establish permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia.
The bill overwhelmingly passed the House by a vote of 365-43.
Industry groups applauded the House’s action.
“Today’s passage of the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act is a great step toward helping American soybean farmers capitalize on the valuable and fast-growing Russian marketplace,” said American Soybean Association President Steve Wellman, in a statement. “Russia is home to more than 140 million consumers and a fast-growing economy, which last year imported more than $770 million in American meat, poultry, egg and dairy products, which require soybean meal as feed in the production process.”
“This is a long-overdue step to secure U.S. access to the growing Russian marketplace,” said Peter M. Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Council for International Business USCIB. “Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August, and in the intervening time, U.S. companies have been at a competitive disadvantage as the country opens up new opportunities for foreign trade and investment.”
Russia has been precluded from PNTR status due to U.S. human rights legislation from the 1970s - part of a 1974 provision called the Jackson-Vanik amendment, dating back to when the then Soviet government hindered emigration from Jewish citizens by applying a so-called “diploma tax” on those trying to leave after having received state-funded higher education.
Russia has not imposed those restrictions for the last two decades, around the time it began applying for WTO membership. The last three U.S. presidents have urged Congress to repeal the amendment, but Capitol Hill lawmakers have not been swayed, citing Russia’s continued human rights violations against political dissenters, as well as its divergence from Western efforts to crack down on Iran, Syria, and other rogue governments.
Granting most-favored nation status to Russia would provide relief from some tariffs on U.S. exports to the country, opening up markets for manufacturers, service providers, and farmers, trade association officials say.
“The bill approved today by the House will help ensure that U.S. exporters can compete on a level playing field in Russia,” said National Foreign Trade Council Vice President Dan O’Flaherty. “We urge the Senate to take up the legislation as soon as possible and pass PNTR before the end of the ‘lame-duck’ session.”
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