I urge passage of this bipartisan legislation to ensure that American companies, workers, farmers, and ranchers benefit from Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization.
Almost three months ago, Russia became the 156th member of the WTO. Since then, exporters from every WTO member but one – the United States – have been guaranteed to benefit from the concessions that Russia made to join the WTO. These benefits include increased access to Russia’s growing market in goods and services, improved protection of intellectual property rights in Russia, Russian animal and plant health rules based on international standards and science, and binding dispute resolution if Russia does not live up to its WTO obligations. If U.S. exporters want to be guaranteed these benefits as well, we must pass this bipartisan legislation and establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia.
This bill would allow us to gain important rights and powerful new enforcement tools with respect to one of the world’s largest economies without giving up a single tariff or other concession. We could double or even triple U.S. exports to Russia within five years. But until we do, these benefits will go to our foreign competitors while our exporters fall further behind. With our high unemployment, we cannot afford to pass up any opportunity to increase our exports and create jobs, and the longer we delay in passing this legislation, the more ground our exporters will lose.
I do not dispute that our relationship with Russia has many challenges. On the commercial front, we face weak enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights as well as discriminatory standards for U.S. agricultural products. Russia’s recent adoption of the WTO’s rules should address many of these issues, but this bill goes farther by requiring the Administration to stay focused on Russia by making sure that it lives up to its WTO obligations, resolves outstanding trade issues with Russia, and improves the rule of law in Russia.
Many of us also have significant concerns with Russia’s foreign policy. Much as I believe that Russia does not always act responsibly, I also believe that this legislation cannot be seen as rewarding Russia. Instead, any benefit that is conferred is on U.S. job creators. I also fully share the concerns of many of my colleagues on Russia’s abysmal human rights record, and that is why I support adding the Magnitsky legislation to this bill, on the third anniversary of the murder of Sergei Magnitsky while imprisoned.
For all of these reasons, we urgently need to pass this important bipartisan legislation, and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.