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Testimony by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk Before the House Committee on Ways and Means

Testimony by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk
Before the House Committee on Ways and Means

Washington, D.C.
June 20, 2012

*As Prepared for Delivery*

"Chairman Camp, Ranking Member Levin, Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here to testify.

"I’d like to speak with you about critical steps Congress can take to support jobs for Americans – that is, by terminating Jackson-Vanik and authorizing the President to provide permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia in order to secure a level playing field for U.S. exports of goods and services to that large and growing market.

"Under President Obama’s leadership, the Administration has worked with this Committee, and Congress as a whole, to bring U.S. trade policy into greater balance with the needs and concerns of American businesses, workers, and families. These efforts are contributing to the U.S. economic recovery. The Commerce Department estimates that U.S. exports supported at least 1.2 million additional American jobs from 2009 to 2011.

"As we said last December when Russia was invited to join the WTO, and as President Obama said in Mexico, the Administration strongly supports legislation to terminate application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment and authorize the President to provide permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia. Accordingly, Mr. Chairman, we support your latest efforts to advance such legislation in the House of Representatives, and to coordinate with similar efforts in the Senate.

"I think it is important to note that this legislation does not give Russia any special trade privileges. Rather, it will ensure that the WTO Agreement applies between us so that American companies, workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, innovators, and service providers will reap the full benefits of Russia’s WTO membership, and we will have the multilateral trade enforcement tools in place to enforce Russia’s WTO commitments.

"Now let me be clear – Russia will be a WTO Member by the end of the summer, and if the WTO Agreement does not apply between the United States and Russia, our businesses, innovators and exporters will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to their global counterparts.

"My full written testimony describes in detail the wide range of opportunities offered by Russia’s WTO membership, so for the sake of time, let me just highlight a few of the important benefits at stake. For example, if the WTO Agreement does not apply between us, U.S. businesses won’t enjoy the guaranteed access to Russia’s expanding services markets. Our ranchers, farmers, and agricultural producers won’t have the protection of the SPS Agreement that requires science-based sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. Our innovators and creators won’t reap the full benefits of stronger protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Russia. And finally, we won’t have access to the WTO’s multilateral enforcement mechanisms, including dispute resolution, to ensure that all of these rules are followed.

"Russia’s WTO membership is not a panacea. But having clear rules of the road will provide the predictability, transparency and market access our businesses and exporters seek.

"Indeed, our negotiators insisted that Russia integrate the WTO rules into its legal regime before it was invited to join the WTO. As a result, Russia has already put in place the laws and regulations necessary to implement the WTO rules. But these rules and obligations are only as good as our ability to enforce them.

"Terminating Jackson-Vanik and extending PNTR to Russia is in the absolute best interest of American businesses, workers, and innovators. We will continue to work to address trade and other issues with you and with the Russians. But in the meantime, let’s not penalize U.S. companies and workers by forcing them to compete with one hand tied behind their backs. I respectfully ask you to move forward quickly to terminate Jackson-Vanik and empower the President to extend PNTR to Russia.

"I appreciate the Committee’s consideration and look forward to answering your questions.

"Thank you."