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What is Business Roundtable

Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.

Washington – In testimony today, Doug Oberhelman, Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar Inc., and Chair of Business Roundtable’s (BRT) International Engagement Committee, urged Congress to approve permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia before Russia joins the WTO in August.  Oberhelman indicated the vote in Congress would help grow U.S. exports and support the U.S. economy and jobs.  Oberhelman’s testimony was presented today before the Committee on Ways and Means within the U.S. House of Representatives.

In his remarks, Oberhelman framed the benefits of increasing U.S. exports to Russia, while outlining the stark choice facing Congress as Russia prepares to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) later this summer.  Oberhelman stated:

“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 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. 

“PNTR is vital because Russia will join the WTO later this summer with strong open market and rule of law commitments negotiated in large part by the United States. When Russia enters the WTO all of its 155 members — except perhaps the United States — will be eligible to receive the full benefits of Russia’s market-opening concessions.

“In its consideration of this important issue, Congress should keep in mind that a vote for Russia PNTR legislation is not a vote for the benefit of Russia, but a vote for the benefit of American companies, farmers and workers.

“First, if Congress doesn’t act, Russia will still join the WTO.  This isn’t a vote about whether to allow Russia to join the WTO; that issue is already settled.

“Second, Russia PNTR does not require any U.S. trade concessions.  Russia PNTR does require Russia to make concessions by locking in its tariff reductions and other market-opening commitments that will benefit the export of U.S. products and services. 

“Third, and most important, if Congress doesn’t act, only our foreign competitors will get all the benefits provided by Russia’s new WTO market-opening and rule of law commitments. Those benefits are substantial.”

In concluding his testimony, Oberhelman stated:

Congress shouldn’t give our European and Asian competitors an advantage in Russia.  It should pass PNTR this summer so U.S. companies, farmers and workers can be competitive in the Russian market from day one, and so the United States can hold Russia accountable to its WTO commitments.”

To learn more about the importance of Russia PNTR to U.S. economic growth and job creation and BRT’s “50 Days for Trade” campaign urging Congressional approval of Russia PNTR this summer, visit www.brt.org/Russia