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Stabenow Calls for Russia to Lift Discriminatory Barriers on American-made Automobiles Before Admittance to the WTO

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U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today called on U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to take swift action against Russia's unfair practices against American-made automobiles. Russia currently stipulates that automakers must produce at least 300,000 vehicles in Russia each year or face high tariffs on imported auto parts. This unfair trade practice hurts U.S. automakers by reducing U.S. exports to Russia and sending jobs overseas. Senator Stabenow urged Ambassador Kirk to make it clear that the removal of these barriers must be included as part of Russia's negotiations to join the WTO.

"This unfair trade practice reduces U.S. automobile exports to Russia by putting American-made vehicles at a distinct disadvantage. This harms American workers when their jobs are sent overseas to meet the Russians' requirements," Senator Stabenow said in a letter to Mr. Kirk today. "It is critical that United States trade policy stands up for American jobs and aggressively confronts this sort of unfair trade practice.... [Russia's] position must not be tolerated."

Full text of Senator Stabenow's letter below:

Ambassador Ron Kirk
Office of U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Kirk:

I am writing in regards to Russia's unfair discrimination against American-made automobiles. Russia requires that automakers produce an arbitrary number of vehicles in Russia each year in order to avoid high tariffs on imported auto parts. This unfair trade practice reduces U.S. automobile exports to Russia by putting American-made vehicles at a distinct disadvantage. This harms American workers when their jobs are sent overseas to meet the Russians' requirements. It is critical that United States trade policy stands up for American jobs and aggressively confronts this sort of unfair trade practice.

This discriminatory program began in 2005, when Russia offered subsidies to automakers to produce vehicles in Russia. These subsidies included reduced tariffs on imported auto parts if an automaker produced at least 25,000 automobiles per year in Russia. This year, Russia increased this requirement twelvefold to at least 300,000 automobiles per year.

Russia has expressed its intent to join the WTO and is currently in negotiations to do so. However, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said just last Friday that Russia has no plans to end automobile assembly requirements as part of its WTO entry. This position should not be tolerated.

Because Russia's discriminatory production requirements would be illegal if Russia is bound by normal WTO rules, Russia should not be allowed to maintain this practice while negotiations continue or during any transition period should Russia join the WTO. Therefore, in the ongoing negotiations, I urge your office to demand that Russia end its barriers to American-made automobiles.

Sincerely,

Debbie Stabenow
United States Senator


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