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Russia joins WTO, now it's time for Congress to act

Jul 23, 2012
Carter Wood

President Vladimir Putin has signed into law legislation to the bring Russia into the World Trade Organization, and momentum is building in Congress to enact a bill that will allow the United States to benefit from Russia's joining the WTO. The developments are definitely positive for the U.S. growth and hiring.

WTO Director General Pascal Lamy hailed Putin's action, which occurred on Saturday, with the formal papers arriving at the WTO today.

“It has been a long road to reach this destination but today, Russia has cleared the final hurdle and on  22 August it will take its rightful place at the table with family of trading nations, becoming the WTO  156th member. I look forward to Russia joining us next month,” said Mr. Lamy.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk also issued a statement:

“Russia is the 6th largest economy in the world, and today’s action marks a significant point in the evolution of the WTO and the global trading system,” Ambassador Kirk said. “As we have long said, Russia’s membership in the WTO’s rules-based global trading system can benefit Russia, the WTO, and the United States. Congress should continue to work on legislation regarding Jackson-Vanik and Permanent Normal Trade Relations for Russia so American businesses, workers and creators have access to the same benefits from Russia’s membership that their foreign competitors have.”

Prospects for timely passage of PNTR in Congress have certainly improved. Last Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed out legislation to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations to Russia, and Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) issued a statement with which the BRT wholeheartedly agrees.

"We took a major step forward today to seize this opportunity to boost U.S. exports to Russia and create the jobs we need here at home.  All this boils down to one thing: jobs,” Baucus said.  “Russia will formally be a member of the WTO next month, so that is Congress’s deadline for passing PNTR.  There is no time to waste – America risks being left behind.  If Congress misses that deadline, American farmers, ranchers, workers and businesses will lose out to the other 154 members of the WTO that already have PNTR with Russia.  American workers will lose the jobs created to China, Canada and Europe when Russia, the world’s seventh largest economy, joins the WTO and opens its market to the world.  This is an opportunity to create jobs we can’t pass up.”

Then, on Thursday, leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee introduced legislation modeled on the Senate language, including human rights provisions (the Magnitsky bill). From Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI):

I am pleased that we were able to gain bipartisan support for this important legislation that supports U.S. jobs and exports, and I look forward to marking it up next week.  Russia PNTR will ensure that U.S. workers, employers, farmers and ranchers have an even playing field when competing for business in Russia.  As a long-time supporter of the Magnitsky legislation, I am advocating that it be paired with PNTR before a House vote.

The bill is H.R. 6156,"To authorize the extension of nondiscriminatory treatment (normal trade relations treatment) to products of the Russian Federation and Moldova and to require reports on the compliance of the Russian Federation with its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization, and for other purposes."