This has been a big week for the push to have Congress enact Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia. A round-up ...
The Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., Doug Oberhelman, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday on the need to enact PNTR so U.S. companies can compete effectively in the Russian market once the country joins the World Trade Organization. Oberhelman, who chairs Business Roundtable's International Engagement Committee, testified on behalf of the BRT and the National Association of Manufacturers. From his testimony:
The most significant pending opportunity the United States has to increase U.S. exports to another country is by approving PNTR with Russia. Russia is the world’s sixth largest economy in terms of purchasing power. It has a population of 142 million with a rapidly growing middle class. Russia imported nearly $300 billion in goods in 2011, yet the United States accounted for only 5 five percent of those imports. An economy of this size should not be just our 31st largest goods export market. Clearly there is tremendous opportunity to increase U.S. exports to Russia.
Another witness was James P. Mackin, Senior Vice President and President of Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management for Medtronic Inc. (Medtronic's CEO, Omar Ishrak, is a BRT member). From Mackin's prepared statement:
Nearly two-thirds of Russia’s medical equipment is obsolete, creating demand for new medical devices. Russia’s spending on medical devices is projected to reach $6.4 billion for 2011, marking growth of nearly 17% over the previous year’s total of $5.5 billion. Russia imports 60% of its medical devices and 20-25% of these imports come from U.S. companies, giving the U.S. the second largest share in Russia’s imported medical device market after Germany.
As a concession, Russia has agreed to substantial tariff reductions for imported medical equipment following WTO accession – Russian tariffs on these products will average 5%, giving U.S. medical technology companies the opportunity to realize significant expansion into the Russian market.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk opened the day's testimony, as reported by Reuters, "U.S. trade bill 'not a gift' to Russia, Kirk says." Ambassador Kirk testified again today before a Senate Finance Committee hearing, "Russia’s WTO Accession – Administration’s Views on the Implications for the United States." In his opening statement, Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) said:
The United States also has lingering economic concerns with Russia, including inadequate intellectual property enforcement and restrictions on our agricultural exports. If we pass PNTR however, WTO rules will require Russia to enforce U.S. intellectual property rights and remove barriers to our agricultural exports. And if Russia fails to do so, we can use the WTO’s binding legal enforcement procedures. But if we fail to pass PNTR, we will be stuck with the status quo. None of these additional tools will be available to hold Russia accountable.
America needs the jobs that PNTR will bring. So let us be ready when Russia joins the WTO this summer. Let us not lose out to the competition. Let us remember to keep our eye on the ball and pass PNTR before August.
Ranking Member Orin Hatch (R-UT) called for swift action to approve PNTR in his opening statement, as well.
Today also saw the release of a pro-PNTR letter from more than 100 companies and trade associations, released by the Coalition for U.S.-Russia Trade (news release). The letter to Senators urges them to co-sponsor S.3285, to enact Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia. Bottom line? "This legislation is not about Russia – it is about us."
Motion to proceed to consideration of S. 744, #immigration bill, passes Senate by 84-15. Getting right into amendments.
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