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Ambassador Kirk Testifies in Support of PNTR with Russia

With Russia set to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) this August, Ambassador Ron Kirk testified before Congress this week to advocate for passage of legislation terminating application of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and authorizing the President to extend permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia.

On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, Ambassador Kirk testified before the House Ways and Means Committee to affirm the economic benefits of establishing PNTR with Russia for American workers, businesses, farmers, and ranchers.

In his remarks, the Ambassador urged Congress to terminate application of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which would otherwise prevent the United States from taking full advantage of Russia’s imminent accession to the WTO. The Jackson-Vanik Amendment is a 1970s-era provision that conditions U.S. trade relations with specific countries on meeting certain requirements, including allowing free emigration. The conditions in the Jackson-Vanik Amendment would prevent the U.S. from extending unconditional permanent normal trade relations to Russia as required by the WTO Agreement.

Ambassador Kirk Testifies
United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Agriculture
Tom Vilsack testify before the Senate Finance Committee on PNTR with Russia.

If Jackson-Vanik remains in place, the WTO agreement will not apply between the U.S. and Russia. In that unfortunate event, American businesses and exporters would be at a competitive disadvantage in Russia compared to their foreign competitors. On the other hand, the Ambassador noted that with PNTR, U.S. businesses will be in a better position to increase their exports to Russia, in support of additional American jobs.

Ambassador Kirk also highlighted how establishing PNTR with Russia will give the U.S. the tools to enforce Russia’s WTO commitments. Ambassador Kirk highlighted how U.S. negotiators successfully secured additional commitments from Russia in areas such as intellectual property, market access, and transparency. The Ambassador stressed that in contrast to previous accession agreements, these Russian commitments have already been fulfilled and will be in effect on day one of Russia’s WTO membership.

Ambassador Kirk was joined by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, who emphasized that the economic needs of the American people, and the Russian people’s vision for their own future, both point towards the need to end application of Jackson-Vanik and the beginning of a new chapter in our economic and trade relations with Russia.

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, Ambassador Kirk and Secretary Burns testified again, this time before the Senate Finance Committee. There, Ambassador Kirk again urged the committee to take action to authorize PNTR and terminate application of Jackson-Vanik before Russia joins the WTO in August. By doing so, the U.S. will have equal access to Russia’s economy, the seventh largest in the world.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined the ambassadors at the Senate hearing. He emphasized that extending PNTR to Russia is not a favor, but instead a significant opportunity for U.S. farmers, ranchers and producers to better access Russia’s growing consumer market.

Learn more about Jackson-Vanik, PNTR, and Russian WTO accession here.