Published: July 18, 2012
The Senate Finance Committee today unanimously approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status for Russia. Unanimously!
The bipartisan support for passage improves the prospects for action this summer, a matter of critical timing if the United States is going to benefit fully from Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, approved WTO membership today and now all that's needed is Vladimir Putin's signature. Once Russia's membership goes into effect, the country will drop its tariffs and open its markets to the other 155 WTO-member countries, EXCEPT for the United States if Congress does not grant Russia PNTR status.
The House has been more reluctant than the Senate to take up the issue, but Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) today issued a statement that holds out the possibility of passage in Congress sooner rather than later -- and sooner (by the end of August) is critical if the United States does not want to let competitors get the jump on us. Camp:
I welcome the news that the Finance Committee was able to pass bipartisan Russia PNTR legislation today and will carefully study the bill once legislative text is available. I intend to have a bill introduced in the next few days and look forward to moving this important jobs bill through the committee on a bipartisan basis as soon as possible. I continue to work with the White House to find a Democratic cosponsor.
News coverage ...
Associated Press, "Senate panel approves trade relations with Russia":
Getting the trade bill through Congress has been a top priority for business and farm groups, which see it as a jobs creator and a boost to the economy. "Without PNTR, U.S. companies and workers will be at a distinct disadvantage in the Russian market as our competitors in Europe, Asia and elsewhere begin to lock in sales and long-term contracts," said Caterpillar Inc. chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman, who also chairs the Business Roundtable's International Engagement Committee.
The Hill, On the Money blog, "Senate Finance unanimously approves bill to normalize trade with Russia":
[Baucus] said he was hopeful that the Senate would vote on the measure before Russia joins the World Trade Organization (WTO) next month but he conceded that Senate leadership hasn't indicated whether they will take up the bill.The bill has been stalled as lawmakers search for a way to grant normal trade relations and send a signal to Russia over its human rights record.
New York Times (blog), "Senate Panel Advances Trade Bill With Russia":
Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said the legislation would “help create more American jobs and ensure American businesses stay competitive worldwide.” He added that he remained “deeply concerned about other aspects of Russia’s international activities” and thought the sanctions would be important.Russia is one of very few countries that still do not have such trade status with the United States, which has already normalized trade relations with former communist countries like Ukraine, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and even with communist-run nations like China and Vietnam.