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Russia PNTR

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MEEKS. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank my friend from California (Mr. Dreier). And he's correct. This is a bipartisan bill that makes common sense, just common sense that we get this done.

So, as I stand here today, I say to you, it is the right thing for America, it is the right thing for businesses in America, and it's the right thing for us to create jobs in America, passing PNTR for Russia.

Mr. Dreier said Russia is the ninth largest market in the world and wants the United States-manufactured goods and services, and U.S. companies are eager to supply Russia's rapidly expanding consumer market. So why are we waiting to make this happen?

While we wait, the failure of the United States Congress to grant permanent normal trade relations to Russia has compromised the competitiveness of United States businesses, hindered the increase of export of goods and services, and stood in the way of growth for United States domestic jobs.

On August 22, the Russian Federation joined the World Trade Organization, concluding nearly 20 years of negotiations and discussions with the United States and about 150 other WTO members. And during these years, it wasn't easy, but Russia did complete numerous reforms of its businesses and trade practices and of its legal system to conform to the norms of the international community and to the WTO rules. These reforms will benefit--not hurt, benefit--U.S. companies. It puts them in a rules-based system.

Now, since August 22, Russia has significantly opened its markets to more than 150 WTO trading partners, with the sole exception--the sole exception--the United States of America. That means that, since August 22, businesses from more than 150 WTO member countries with, again, the sole exception of those of the United States, have conducted trade with Russian counterparts protected by the WTO dispute resolution mechanisms. And while we wait to act, U.S. businesses are at a competitive disadvantage.

Business analysts say that the U.S. exporters currently underperform with respect to Russia. They predict that with PNTR, U.S. trade with Russia could admittedly double over the next 5 years.

Now, I'm from New York, and I just look at what it means for New York, just a small piece. In New York, where exports to Russia nearly reached a half a billion dollars in 2001, half a billion dollars, now, that's a big deal. But when you consider the transportation, the shipping, the customs brokers, the airport personnel jobs involved, the potential economic impact is tremendous.

Clearly, increased trade is good for New York, but it's also good for every State in the United States and stands to benefit every State. Every State, I repeat, stands to benefit from the new opportunity to sell more American goods and services to Russia through PNTR. So, I say we've got to get it right.

Let me just conclude by saying this. I also am the ranking Democrat on Europe, and as I go and talk to a number of the nations who used to be part of the USSR, some who still have some conflicts with Russia, one of the things that I want to talk to them about, well, what do you think?

A, are you happy to be in the WTO? They all said yes.

B, should we get rid of Jackson-Vanik and make sure that we're able to trade? They all said yes, that it sends the right message and it compels Russia to play by some rules, and we then have a referee in which to make sure they do that.

So I'm hopeful that we get this together and, before we leave here, we pass PNTR for Russia, because every single day that we don't, we're losing out on creating jobs here in America.

I look forward to working with you, and hopefully we'll get this done.

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