This morning the House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR). Testifying at today’s hearing was USTR Ron Kirk and also Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and CEO and NAM Vice-Chair Doug Oberhelman, who testified on behalf of the NAM and the Business Roundtable.
With Russia’s ascension to the WTO later this summer it is critically important for Congress to act to pass Russia PNTR so manufacturers will not lose out on the tremendous export opportunities in Russia. Passing Russia PNTR will benefit manufacturers of all sizes, both large and small. About 83 percent of U.S. exporters to Russia are small and medium-sized companies.
In his testimony Mr. Oberhelman discusses the importance of the Russian market to U.S. manufactured goods exports:
Russia is the world’s sixth largest economy in terms of purchasing power. It has a population of 142 million with a rapidly growing middle class. Russia imported nearly $300 billion in goods in 2011, yet the United States accounted for only 5 five percent of those imports. An economy of this size should not be just our 31st largest goods export market. Clearly there is tremendous opportunity to increase U.S. exports to Russia.
Also today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Congress to pass Russia PNTR in order to remove Jackson-Vanick Amendment and she also lays out how a vote for PNTR isn’t a vote for Russia:
Extending permanent normal trading relations isn’t a gift to Russia. It is a smart, strategic investment in one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. goods and services. It’s also an investment in the more open and prosperous Russia that we want to see develop.
The bottom line is the clock is ticking for Congress to act. Russia is expected to join the WTO in early August leaving little time. If Congress fails to act we will be left on the sidelines while our competitors enjoy this enormous export market.