Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced bipartisan legislation yesterday to provide Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia. The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Kerry (D-MA), Thune (R-SD) and McCain (R-AZ).
The NAM released a statement urging Congress to act quickly on PNTR. The NAM also released a new ManuFACT highlighting the urgent need for PNTR with Russia.
Sen. Baucus has reportedly agreed to link the PNTR bill to the so-called Magnitsky bill, a bill to sanction Russian human rights violators, and pledged to pass them both this year. The latest draft version of the Senate Magnitsky bill, circulated by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), would make it more difficult to add names to the list of human rights violators that the bill creates and add ways for the President to waive penalties against those violators.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved its version of the human rights bill, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 4405), last week. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has said previously she does not support joining Magnitsky with the bill to grant PNTR status to Russia. After the introduction of the bill yesterday, eight Senate Finance Committee Republicans sent a letter to Sen. Baucus saying that Congress should address ongoing issues with Russia before moving forward on PNTR. A Senate Finance Committee hearing on Russia’s WTO accession is scheduled for Thursday, June 21, at 10:00am.
The House Ways & Means Committee will be holding its hearing on PNTR on Wednesday, June 20. The first panel, with Administration witnesses, will begin at 9:30am. The second panel, with private sector witnesses, will begin at 2:00pm.
Last week, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reported that the Russian government had approved the agreements for Russia’s accession to the WTO and had passed them to the Duma for ratification. The Chairman of the Duma Committee for Economic Policy, Igor Rudensky, said that the bill will be considered at a plenary session of the Duma on July 4. Russia will formally join the WTO 30 days after the bill is approved. Under this timeline, it will be critical for Congress to act before the August recess so that U.S. companies are not at a disadvantage when Russia joins the WTO.
The President’s Export Council (PEC) also sent a letter to the President on June 6, highlighting the opportunities for U.S. exporters in the Russian market. The letter urges the President to work closely with Congress to provide PNTR prior to Russia’s WTO ratification.
Lauren Airey is director of trade facilitation policy, National Association of Manufacturers.