Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus introduced bipartisan legislation today to make sure Montana can take advantage of new job-creating export opportunities when Russia joins the World Trade Organization (WTO) this summer. Without this legislation, Montana ranchers will miss out on opportunities to sell more than 60,000 tons of American beef to Russia at a lower cost to Montana.
"This bill will make sure Montana ranchers can sell more beef to Russia and that means more jobs for Montana - it's that simple," Baucus said. "We saw firsthand how trade deals deliver jobs, when I brought the Colombian, Korean and Australian Ambassadors to Montana a few weeks ago to announce major deals with Montana ranchers and manufacturers. I'm eager to get this bill through the Senate, so we can start brokering new deals to sell even more Montana beef to Russia."
In May 2012, Baucus announced a Montana cattle purchase by the Ambassador of Colombia, and a $ 1.5 million sale by a Montana manufacturer to Korea, after traveling to Colombia and leading passage of trade deals with both countries in 2011. Baucus also announced a half million dollar sale by a Montana manufacturer to Australia, with whom the U.S. also has a trade deal.
Earlier this year, Baucus traveled to Russia and met with top leaders -- including, then President, Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik -- to begin his push to get today's legislation through the Senate.
In March, Baucus brought Montana Stockgrowers President Watty Taylor before his Senate Committee to speak on the importance of today's legislation for American ranchers.
Baucus' legislation has broad bipartisan support from:
International Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.),
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), and
Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.).
What Baucus' Bill Means for Montana Beef:
Under Baucus' bill, Russia's accession to the WTO will significantly expand market access for American beef, by allowing 60,000 tons of frozen U.S. beef to be sold in Russia under a reduced tariff of 15 percent. In addition, Montana ranchers will also be able to sell up to 11,000 tons of fresh chilled beef in Russia at the reduced tariff. And, the United States will be able to export high-quality beef above the allotted amount at a 15 percent rate as well.
Russia is already America's 5th largest export market for American beef by volume. The U.S. currently exports 48,000 tons and current tariffs fluctuate from 15 to 60 percent.
American exports of goods and services into Russia are expected to double to $19 billion within five years of Russia's accession to the WTO.
But in order for American companies, and Montana ranchers, to receive the full benefits of Russia joining the WTO, the U.S. Congress must pass legislation providing Russia with what is known as Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR). This is what the bill Baucus introduced today will do.
Russia agreed to open its markets and follow WTO rules as part of its accession to the WTO. Unlike a free trade agreement, the United States will not have to grant any market access benefits to Russia as part of its accession. But American ranchers and businesses will not be able to benefit from Russia joining the WTO without Congress passing the PNTR legislation Baucus introduced today.
WTO member countries formally invited Russia to join the WTO in December 2011. Russia will become a WTO member 30 days after it ratifies the accession agreement, which it must do by July 23.