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Russia PNTR

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PAULSEN. Well, I thank the chairman for yielding.

And let me just first say, with the bipartisan support of this important issue, which I will concur in comments from Mr. Meeks, but I want to say I want to thank Mr. Dreier, the chairman, because I think we're having these types of discussions on the floor today thanks to his many years of leadership to educate all of us in the House on a bipartisan basis about the benefits of trade, about selling American, and his leadership in establishing this Free Trade Caucus has been so valuable to me as a newer Member. And I know that our country is in great gratitude, and we're going to miss your leadership down the road, Mr. Chairman, in the future.

Let me just say that I also want to rise in strong support for passing this permanent normal trade relations status with Russia. We must pass this legislation to give American manufacturers, American farmers, and American service providers a fair chance to compete and then win and sell more of their goods in the markets of Russia.

Russia joined the WTO already. They already joined the World Trade Organization back on August 22. They've already begun to open their markets to the rest of the world, so now there are about 150 countries, except the United States, that can fully benefit from much better access to the Russian marketplace. Additionally, all of these nations, except the United States, can benefit from Russia's WTO entrance commitments, including stronger international property protections, greater transparency, recourse to the WTO's dispute settlement procedures if Russia fails to meet its commitments.

Until Congress approves PNTR, the United States cannot claim all the benefits that go along with Russia's entrance into the WTO membership obligations. From the President's Export Council, we've already heard some great statistics that are real. They are real, Mr. Speaker. They estimate that U.S. exports to Russia will double and triple over the next 5 years if we pass PNTR, adding jobs here in the United States. These are jobs in manufacturing; these are service jobs; these are jobs in high-tech; and all across the spectrum of other industries. There is no doubt that Russia's demand for foreign services and goods is growing. This is a country with a population of 142 million people. It has got a rapidly growing middle class.

I will speak in particular about a company, Medtronic, which is a medical device manufacturer based in Minnesota, my home State. It's one of the companies that will lose out if we don't pass permanent normal trade relations soon. And Russia, as I mentioned, is one of the fastest-growing markets. It is also a fast-growing market for medical devices and medical technology. It's a key player in the Russian medical device market. In fact, since 2005, there have been 10,000 Russian health care professionals who have been trained in Medtronic technologies. In the last 5 years, these Medtronic technologies and therapies have benefited about 70,000 patients across Russia.

So Russia has now agreed to substantial tariff reductions for imported medical devices. Russian tariffs on these products will average about 5 percent. It is going to give U.S. medical technology companies the opportunity to significantly expand into the Russian market. Meanwhile, Russia PNTR does not require any tariff reductions or market liberalization by the United States. Yet all of this will go away and all of this will be at risk if we do not act in passing PNTR with Russia in the near future here.

Mr. Speaker, I would just say that the approval of Russia PNTR is a critical step towards ensuring that U.S. companies can benefit from Russia's WTO ascension and remain competitive in the markets today. Until we do that, all other WTO countries will continue to grab market share, market share that is much more difficult to grab back in today's global, competitive environment. So, when I think of a competitor and a company like Medtronic that's based in Minnesota, we want to make sure that their workers and their ingenuity and their innovation is going to continue to grow and prosper so we can sell American across the world. In other words, U.S. companies are being left behind as our competitors continue to grow in this very profitable market of medical devices, losing ground we may never be able to make up.

With other countries gaining this head start now in the Russian market, our time is running out, so this PNTR really benefits the United States. I hope that we act next week, Mr. Chairman, before we head back for the election season because this is critical for jobs; it's bipartisan; the President can claim great ownership and credit for this as well if we act soon. I will do all I can to continue to work with you, Mr. Chairman, to move this forward as well.

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Mr. PAULSEN. I will just say that, whether it's a company like a Medtronic or an agricultural-based company like a Cargill, which is based in my district in Minnesota as well, clearly there is the opportunity to sell American knowing that 95 percent of the world's consumers are outside of the United States. This opportunity in Russia with huge market share is going to mean more medical devices being sold in Russia. These are life-improving, these are life-saving technologies, and there is no doubt in a competitive environment that European companies are trying to access that market and are moving forward to do that. So a world-class leader like a Medtronic is going to have a vacuum unless it's able to move forward and unless Congress acts to give permanent normal trade relations.

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