House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) today announced that the Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and granting Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR). The hearing will take place on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, in 1100 Longworth House Office Building. The first panel will consist of Administration witnesses and will begin at 9:30 A.M. The second panel will consist of private sector witnesses and will begin at 2:00 P.M.
In view of the limited time available to hear the witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing. A list of invited witnesses will follow.
In December 2011, the WTO membership invited Russia to become a member of the WTO. Under WTO rules, Russia will automatically join the WTO thirty days after depositing its instruments of ratification, which is to occur once the Russian legislature votes on the WTO accession package. That vote is likely to occur in the next few weeks.
Russia is currently the largest economy that is not a WTO member. As a member of the WTO, Russia will be required to decrease its tariffs and remove barriers to imports of goods and services. Russia will also be required to comply with WTO requirements regarding transparency in setting rules, intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, science-based sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards, and other obligations. WTO members will be able to use the WTO's dispute settlement procedures to enforce these obligations.
The United States does not now provide Russia unconditional normal trade relations, or permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), as required under WTO rules, because Russia is subject to Title IV of the 1974 Trade Act, including the so-called "Jackson-Vanik" amendment. This law requires annual determinations to provide normal trade relations for all countries that were Communist when the law was enacted, instead of the permanent, unconditional trade relations that the United States typically offers to WTO members. To avoid being in violation of its WTO obligations, the United States has invoked "non-application" of WTO rules with respect to Russia, which it can revoke at any time if Congress passes PNTR. The effect of the non-application is that the United States and Russia would not have a WTO relationship, and neither Russia nor the United States would have rights or obligations under WTO rules with respect to each other. This could place American employers, workers, farmers, and ranchers at a disadvantage in the Russian market versus their competitors in other WTO members.
In announcing this hearing, Chairman Camp said, "We should explore every opportunity to open markets for U.S. employers, workers, farmers, and ranchers. Granting Russia PNTR is a way to create American jobs and increase our exports. If Congress does not grant Russia PNTR, the benefits of Russia's membership in the WTO will go only to our foreign competitors. Clearly, there are non-economic concerns with Russia, but blocking PNTR does not increase our leverage in addressing those items. I look forward to the Administration's active engagement on all of the issues surrounding Russia PNTR."
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
The focus of the hearing will be the significant opportunities presented upon Russia's accession to the WTO and commercial areas requiring continued attention, such as enforcement of IPR and Russian SPS standards relating to U.S. agriculture exports. The hearing will also explore the impact on U.S. employers, workers, farmers, and ranchers if Congress does not grant Russia PNTR and they are unable to obtain the benefits of Russia's membership. In addition, the hearing will provide an opportunity for addressing Members' non-commercial concerns regarding Russia.
DETAILS FOR SUBMISSION OF WRITTEN COMMENTS:
Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage, http://waysandmeans.house.gov, select "Hearings." Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, "Click here to provide a submission for the record." Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. ATTACH your submission as a Word document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Thursday, July 5, 2012. Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.
The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record. As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee. The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines. Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below. Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.
Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased. All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.
All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears. A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.
The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested). Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.
Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/.