Russia PNTR

Floor Speech

By:  David Dreier
Date: Sept. 13, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 5, 2011, the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks on the subject of my Special Order.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from California?

There was no objection.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about an issue that both Democrats and Republicans, and virtually every American, is talking about, and people all over the world are talking about. What is that issue? How do we increase global economic growth; and here in this country, how do we create more good American jobs.

It's obviously a key part of the Presidential campaign. We have Democrats and Republicans daily stand in the well of the House of Representatives and offer proposals, talk about their ideas as to how we can create good jobs.

We have the sad report of 380,000 people who fell off the rolls even looking for jobs. We have literally millions of our fellow Americans who are looking for jobs, and we have many businesses that are struggling.

One of the great challenges that President Obama put forward was the goal of doubling our exports, and we all know that he very much wanted to do that. We, as Members of Congress, came together after a decade, and we finally were able to successfully pass market-opening opportunities for U.S. workers to sell their goods and provide our services in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea.

It took us a long time to get there. I know that it's easy to point the finger of blame, but the fact is we've been ready for a long time. This institution
was ready for a long time, Democrats and Republicans alike, and we were finally able to get the legislation up here from down on Pennsylvania Avenue, and we were able to make it happen with strong bipartisan votes on all three of those agreements.

Well, Mr. Speaker, with recognition that opening up markets around the world for U.S. goods and services is a key way to create jobs here--because, again, as we debated the Panama, Colombia, and Korea Trade Agreements, there were Members on both sides of the aisle who stood up and argued in behalf of those great agreements--we now have before us what I believe is an absolute no-brainer, but tragically it's created some political consternation over a lot of confusion.

We know that the idea of seeing countries join the WTO, the World Trade Organization, creates a scenario whereby they have to comply with a rules-based trading system. We know that once they enter the WTO, there are constraints imposed on them along with the benefits that they get for their membership in the WTO. And there was a lot of negotiation, a lot of talk about Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. The idea of seeing Russia forced to comply with a system that would prevent them from engaging in discriminatory practices, from engaging in the kinds of acts that prevent products and services from getting into their country, the structure of having to comply with a rules-based system is something that membership in the WTO forces and creates.

Again, there were a lot of negotiations. The last was dealing with a border dispute with Georgia that was resolved, and that was resolved several months ago. That put into place a structure that allowed, on August 22--last month--for Russia to enter the World Trade Organization.

Russia is part of the WTO. They are now, having been for over 3 weeks, a member of the World Trade Organization. That means, as I said, tremendous benefits that Russia gets. They have 140 million consumers, and there are going to be opportunities for countries around the world to export into Russia. We, last year, exported $11 billion of goods and services into the WTO. But guess what, Mr. Speaker? We're not at the table anymore. We've lost out on our chance to be able to sell our goods and services into Russia, that market of 140 million consumers.

Now, why is it that we've lost out? Well, we haven't been able to have a vote here in the Congress on Russia's accession into the WTO. Why hasn't that happened? Well, I hate to be political--even though this is the time of year when people are especially political--but we need to get this sent up here to the Congress so that we can put together what I know is going to be broad bipartisan support to make this happen. When it comes up, I know that we will see tremendous support on the Republican side of the aisle. And I say that because I'm particularly proud of the 73 newly elected Republican Members of Congress. Of the 87, 73 sent a letter to President Obama saying that they believe it very important for us to open up that market, so that if we all have this desire of creating more good jobs in the United States, let's open up that market to 140 million consumers. Well, unfortunately we're still waiting for that.

And I know that it's not just Republicans who are in support of this, Mr. Speaker. We have Democrats who are passionately and strongly in support of it. My very dear friend from New York (Mr. Meeks) says he's going to join us. We've got other colleagues of ours who are going to join us in just a minute. But I want to say that this is something that absolutely should be done.

Now, I talked about the fact that I believe it's a no-brainer, but I recognize that there is a lot of political consternation about this because it's Russia. We all know that Russia has an absolutely horrendous human rights policy. We know that Russia has engaged in trying to expand its sphere to other former republics of the Soviet Union. We know that there is tremendous corruption and cronyism that exists in Russia today, and it is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to any of us.

Now, there are some, Mr. Speaker, who argue that for us to deny the U.S. an opportunity to have a vote on PNTR--basically repealing Jackson-Vanik and allowing us to proceed with this--would be a good thing and it would send a message to Russia, when in fact the exact opposite is the case. There is nothing that we could do as the United States of America that would be a greater boost to supporting the perpetuation of the aberrant behavior that we have seen from Russia than for us to deny a vote on permanent normal trade relations that would see us, then, have access to that market.

I said that last year we exported $11 billion of goods and services to Russia. If we could pass PNTR here, projections are that by 2017 we would double that from $11 billion to $22 billion. Now, what does that mean? It means more good U.S. jobs. And what does it mean? It means an expansion of our American values. It means, again, this forced compliance with a rules-based trading system. It means creating a structure that will allow us to undermine the kind of political repression that exists in Russia.

Our sticking our head in the sand would be just plain wrong. Now, those are not just my words, Mr. Speaker. We, on the 12th of March, received a letter from seven of the most prominent and outspoken human rights activists in Russia. They, in a letter, an open letter that was sent to those of us who are considering this issue, said the following. Now this is from these very, very prominent dissidents and activists, some of whom I'm sure have been imprisoned. They've had long histories of being opposition leaders to Vladimir Putin. So in the letter that they sent to us, Mr. Speaker, they said:

Some politicians in the United States argue that the removal of Russia from Jackson-Vanik would help no one but the current Russian undemocratic political regime. That assumption is flat wrong. Although there are obvious problems with democracy and human rights in modern Russia, the persistence on the books of the Jackson-Vanik amendment does not help to solve them at all. Moreover, it brings direct harm. It limits Russia's competitiveness in international markets for higher value-added products, leaving Russia trapped in its current petro-state model of development and preventing it from transforming into a modern, diversified, and more high-tech economy. This helps Mr. Putin and his cronies.

At the end of the day, those who defend the argument that Jackson-Vanik's provisions should still apply to Russia in order to punish Putin's anti-democratic regime only darken Russia's political future, hamper its economic development, and frustrate its democratic aspirations.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to include this letter from the seven dissidents in the Record in its entirety, underscoring how critically important it is for us to take this action so that we can boost those who are struggling to improve the plight of those Russians who are seeing their human rights jeopardized based on the current policies.

March 12, 2012.

Remove Russia From Jackson-Vanik!

Removal of Russia from the provisions of the Cold War era Jackson-Vanik Amendment has long been an issue of political debate. Although the outdated nature and irrelevance of the amendment is widely recognized, some politicians in the United States argue that the removal of Russia from Jackson-Vanik would help no one but the current Russian undemocratic political regime.

That assumption is flat wrong. Although there are obvious problems with democracy and human rights in modern Russia, the persistence on the books of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment does not help to solve them at all. Moreover, it brings direct harm. It limits Russia's competitiveness in international markets for higher value-added products, leaving Russia trapped in its current petro-state model of development and preventing it from transforming into a modern, diversified and more hi-tech economy.

This helps Mr Putin and his cronies, who continue to benefit from control over raw materials exports and who have no real interest in diversifying Russia's economy. During the period of their rule, dependence on oil and gas exports has become even greater than before. Needless to say, hanging in a petro-state limbo prevents the emergence in Russia of an independent and advanced middle class, which should be the main source of demand for pro-democracy political transformation in the future. More and more talented and creative Russians are leaving the country because there are better opportunities for finding good jobs in hi-tech industries abroad.

At the end of the day, those who defend the argument that Jackson-Vanik's provisions should still apply to Russia in order to punish Putin's anti-democratic regime only darken Russia's political future, hamper its economic development, and frustrate its democratic aspirations.

Jackson-Vanik is also a very useful tool for Mr Putin's anti-American propaganda machine: it helps him to depict the United States as hostile to Russia, using outdated cold-war tools to undermine Russia's international competitiveness.

We, leading figures of the Russian political opposition, strongly stand behind efforts to remove Russian from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Jackson-Vanik is not helpful in any way--neither for promotion of human rights and democracy in Russia, nor for the economic interests of its people. Sanctions which harm the interests of ordinary Russians are unhelpful and counter-productive--much more effective are targeted sanctions against specific officials involved in human rights abuse, like those named in the Senator Benjamin Cardin's list in the Sergey Magnitsky case (Senate Bill 1039).

It is time to remove Russia from Jackson-Vanik!

Sergey Aleksashenko,

Political Council member, People's Freedom Party (Parnas).

Alexander Lebedev,

Independent businessman and politician.

Vladimir Milov,

Leader, ``Democratic Choice'' movement.

Alexey Navalny,

Attorney and civil activist.

Boris Nemtsov,

Co-chairman, People's Freedom Party (Parnas), ``Solidarity'' movement.

Ilya Ponomarev,

State Duma member, Just Russia Party.

Vladimir Ryzhkov,

Co-chairman, People's Freedom Party (Parnas).
I also want to say that as we look at this question of job creation and economic growth, it's not something that, again, is at all partisan, and it's something that transcends this institution. We have received a number of letters--and let me see if I can dig this one up here. We have a bipartisan letter from Governors across this country that was sent just weeks ago, on the 25th of July. It was sent to us by Governors from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Washington, a broad cross-section geographically and politically, Democrats and Republicans. All these Governors were signatories to this letter in which they say:

As Governors, we know from firsthand experience in our States that expanding opportunities for international trade and attracting foreign investment are essential to promoting U.S. economic growth and creating new and better jobs right here in America. Russia's impending membership in the World Trade Organization offers a significant opportunity to increase our trade and investment with the world's ninth-largest economy.

So I've got to say, Mr. Speaker, you can understand why I see this as a no-brainer.

To me, this is a pretty simple thing. But I recognize that some might believe that it's a reward to Russia and to Vladimir Putin, and I stand with them for all the reasons that they're opposing it. But I argue that the reasons that they and I oppose the actions of Vladimir Putin underscore why we need to ensure that the U.S. is at the table.

And so, with the President having stated that he has this goal of doubling U.S. exports, and we've got 140 million consumers there who very much want to have access to U.S.-manufactured products, to our goods and services, we need to get it done.

And why don't I begin, since I see a number of my colleagues here, by recognizing my very good friend from New York (Mr. Meeks), who has joined us. As I recognize Mr. Meeks, I'd like to say that a number of Members have come up to me from both sides of the aisle, Mr. Speaker, and indicated that they very much wanted to be able to be here this evening to talk about this.

With that, I would like to yield time to my very good friend from New York (Mr. Meeks).

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Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his very thoughtful comments, and I would just like to underscore this notion of doubling our exports. Taking that level from $11 billion in the next 5 years to $22 billion will inure to the benefit of New York, of California, of Minnesota, of Louisiana, and it will provide benefits all across this country.

And at the same time, it will help us deal with this human rights question, which is such an important one, because I haven't talked about it, but obviously including the legislation that deals with the very tragic death of Sergey Magnitsky, who was a lawyer in Russia who was raising questions and, basically, a whistleblower of raising concerns about the behavior of the Russian Government. He was left to die in prison. And we, with this legislation,
will be ensuring that those who are responsible are brought to justice and that it never happens again.

And so I think that, all the way around, this can be a win-win for the cause of human rights and for the cause of creating jobs right here, and I thank my friend from New York for his thoughtful contribution.

We're very pleased to be joined, Mr. Speaker, by my good friend from Minnesota, with whom I've been privileged to travel and has a great understanding and grasp of the issue of globalization and how opening up new markets around the world will benefit his constituents. And I'm happy to yield to my friend.

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Mr. DREIER. If I could reclaim my time, I thank my friend for his very strong commitment to this.

I would like to expand on this Medtronic example for a moment, if I could, because we talk about big pictures; we talk about numbers; we say, yes, we want to create jobs, but the example of Medtronic is very clearly a specific opportunity.

I wonder if my friend has any examples or if he has talked to executives at Medtronic about the benefits of opening up that market in Russia, because it's true. We are horrified at the crony capitalism that exists in Russia, and we are horrified at the human rights violations that exist, but there are also many very, very good, dedicated, hardworking Russian people who would like to have an opportunity to have access to many of the products that are made right here in the United States. I know my friend and I have traveled around the globe, and one of the things that consistently comes forward is people saying we want to be able to purchase goods from the United States of America, goods manufactured in the United States of America.

I wonder if my friend might tell us a little bit

about the success of Medtronic and what has happened and exactly what benefit we would see created for jobs here and also for the consumers in Russia.

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Mr. DREIER. In reclaiming my time, my friend is absolutely right, and I just want to again express appreciation to his commitment to our Trade Working Group, which is on a wide range of issues. We've been able to focus on creating jobs for millions of Americans as we have sought to recognize the benefits of exports and imports as well when it comes to improving the standard of living and the quality of life for our fellow Americans. He has been very dedicated to his constituents, and I appreciate your participation this evening, too.

I am also very pleased to see that we are joined by my very good friend from Louisiana, another hardworking member of the House Ways and Means Committee and someone who understands the world extraordinarily well. I would like to recognize my friend Mr. Boustany.

Mr. BOUSTANY. Thank you, Chairman Dreier.

Let me say thank you, first of all, for your tremendous service to our country in your capacity as a Member of Congress and as chairman of the Rules Committee. I want to thank you for your leadership on international trade and in promoting America's role in international trade. I also want to thank you for your friendship and for your wise counsel. I've enjoyed the time I've been able to travel with you.

Mr. DREIER. We've still got months to go.

Mr. BOUSTANY. We still do, but I'll say this: I'll miss having you here, and I look forward to keeping in touch in the future.

Mr. DREIER. Absolutely, we should do that.

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Mr. DREIER. I'll just reclaim my time there to underscore the very important point that my friend has made, Mr. Speaker.

We all know that the intentions behind the Jackson-Vanik amendment were very good. We saw horrendous policies from the Soviet Union in a wide range of areas. Virtually everything they did was bad as the Soviet Union, a totalitarian country. But the denial of opportunities for Jews to emigrate, especially going back to Israel, is what led to that amendment to the 1974 agreement.

I would like to ask my friend to repeat again--he said that we've had complete compliance that we've been able to certify for now exactly two long decades since 1992. That's 20 years ago, 1992 to 2012. For 20 years, we've had annual certification because there has been an opportunity in Russia since, thank God, the Soviet Union came down with the work of so many people. We saw it come down, and we now have seen really what you would call a Cold War-era provision that has been left in place for two decades.

Why in the world would we still have this? It seems to me that it's the right thing for us to do to ensure that we sweep this aside so that we can move ahead with these market-opening opportunities. I assume that's the point the gentleman was making.

I'm happy to yield to my friend.

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Mr. DREIER. Reclaiming my time just to underscore this point, this notion that the WTO, which is an entity that stems from an agreement that the postwar leaders put together in 1947 called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the idea behind that was to diminish tariff and nontariff barriers. When we saw in the early 1990s the WTO put into place, the idea is to see issues like intellectual property violations, which we know are rampant around the world, in Russia, and we have intellectual property violations here in the United States, as well. We see lots of retaliatory action that is taken. With the structure of the WTO, there is pressure to live with a rules-based trading system to deal with these kinds of corrupt practices that go on with great regularity.

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Mr. DREIER. If I could reclaim my time, I think the gentleman makes a very important point about what I like to refer to as the interdependence of economic and political liberalization.

We know people in this country are hurting. We all have constituents who are having a difficult time keeping a roof over their head, keeping food on the table. People have lost their jobs and their homes. We know it's been very tough. We know again that creating markets for these workers is very important. So seeing the standard of living improve throughout the rest of the world creates new markets for us, and it leads to political liberalization.

As we see that the many people in Russia who are suffering have opportunities to improve their quality of life and their standard of living by buying U.S. goods and services, it seems to me that's going to lead towards greater pressure for political reform, to address these human rights problems, to address the crony capitalism that exists, to address the kind of outrageous behavior that we see with great regularity from Vladimir Putin.

I'm happy to further yield to my friend.

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Mr. DREIER. Reclaiming my time, just to underscore again, PVC is that material that's used in sprinklers. And I see this PVC material. I have been very familiar with it for many years.

What my friend is saying is there is an opportunity for exports to exceed the $24 million coming from Louisiana to Russia, but right now we're seeing other parts of the world transcend that. By virtue of the fact that they have access to that consumer market in Russia, it's denying the people of Louisiana from being able to see an increase in the level of exports of PVC material into Russia.

I yield to the gentleman.

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Mr. DREIER. Well, Mr. Speaker, let me express my appreciation for the very thoughtful remarks. The dedication that my friend has shown to his Louisiana constituents and the American people is, really, very, very respected in this institution. And I want him to know how much, Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate his understanding of what it's going to take to create more jobs in Louisiana for the people there who are struggling and working so hard.

One issue that I wanted to mention, I talked about it earlier, but I think is
very important, and it's really what's led to people who are in opposition to this, and that is this question of human rights. We have horror story after horror story.

I have stood in this well and several times talked about the relationship that I developed with a man who is currently in prison in Russia, and this man's name is Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He was in the energy business, a company called Yukos. He was one of the most successful, dedicated, and hardworking Russians. He was one of the greatest philanthropists in Russia, giving huge sums of money to support many, many charitable causes.

But, Mr. Speaker, he was guilty of one thing and one thing only: He was not a supporter of Vladimir Putin. And he sat in my office in the Rules Committee, right upstairs here, and, having visited him in Moscow and then having him visit me here in the Capitol. He said that he was nervous, and he was concerned that he was going to face some consequences for his opposition to Vladimir Putin.

Today I'm embarrassed to say how I reacted. I laughed. I said, The Soviet Union no longer exists. We have moved to a country that is independent, free, strong, vibrant, moving away from corruption, and, you, Mr. Khodorkovsky--Mikhail, I was calling him then--I said, You are, in fact, one of the most successful people in the country. There's no way that you would face that kind of threat.

Well, Mr. Speaker, tragically, we saw Mikhail Khodorkovsky jailed for 7 years, and then we saw an extension, another 7-year extension of his sentence. I will tell you that that is one of the reasons, because of the dedication that I have to the name of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who at this moment is suffering in a prison in Russia, it is for that reason that I want us to take every step that we can to ensure that we bring about the kind of reform and the change that is essential.

What we've done in this legislation, Mr. Speaker, is we have dealt with a specific case where a man died. Sergey Magnitsky was relatively young. He was in his thirties, a lawyer who raised questions and concerns about the behavior of Vladimir Putin's Russia. For that, he was sentenced to prison. He was beaten, tortured, and left to die.

That has raised concern here in the United States and around the world. That kind of action is not acceptable, and we have to do everything that we can to ensure that those who are responsible are brought to justice and that it never, ever happens again.

Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to say that in this legislation we have the so-called Magnitsky bill, which was reported unanimously out of our House Foreign Affairs Committee. This measure has passed the Senate. We need to see the melding of these. We need to see this put together and passed so that we can say that we're going to expand our American values, creating jobs in the United States by opening up this market and, at the same time, saying we will ensure that whoever is responsible for this kind of outrageous behavior is brought to justice. We're seeing, obviously, horrendous human rights violations take place around the globe.

Yesterday morning I stood here to talk about our great, great Ambassador, an amazing Foreign Service Officer who represented the United States in Damascus, Jerusalem, and other spots in the world in his dedicated career. Tragically, Chris Stevens was killed, as we all know.

We are seeing a very, very dangerous world, and that's why it's important for us to stand up and take action, and that's exactly what this measure calling for the U.S. to be at the table with Russia by granting PNTR will do.

Again, my friend has said it perfectly. Mr. Paulsen said it. Mr. Meeks said it. My colleague, I know, in his talking points that I submitted for the record, Mr. Moran, would have said it. Kevin Brady, the chairman of the Trade Subcommittee had to go to a meeting, but he very much wanted to be a part of our presentation this evening, and he passionately believes that this is the way for us to most effectively deal with the very, very serious problems that we have on economic growth and on human rights violations. I hope, I hope that we will be able to see passage as soon as possible.

Again, I know that this is the time of year, as I said at the very outset, just weeks before the election, to be very partisan. This is something that we can have a bipartisan victory on.

That's why, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to implore President Obama to get engaged on this. I know that there are many issues, again, looking at Africa and the Middle East. I know he is campaigning in his quest to be reelected. This is something that Democrats and Republicans in the House will pass with strong support if he will get engaged and work with us, work with us to ensure that we can bring this together.

And so I hope very much that he will do that in the coming days and weeks to underscore his goal of creating jobs.

I'd like to further yield to my friend. It looks like he'd like to offer something.

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Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his very thoughtful contribution on that. As we talk about human rights violations and the kind of threat that exists to those lovers of freedom around the world, I will say that just a couple of hours ago I talked to a friend of mine who is Libyan. In fact, his father was the lead opposition for four decades to Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. And he was in tears in our conversation, saying that the people of Libya owe everything to the United States of America. He said Benghazi would have been completely lost were it not for the United States of America and what it is that we did to bring about the kind of liberation that they so desperately needed, having been repressed for 42 years under Muammar Qadhafi.

And he went on to say that as we look at Libya, it's important to note that the tragic murder of Ambassador Stevens did not come from the people of Libya. It came from individuals, a few individuals. He said the people of Libya love the American people and revere the American people. I suspect that as we're talking about Russian PNTR that the same thing exists in Russia. Because they're living with great oppression. They're living with what is little more than an authoritarian dictatorship with the kind of crony capitalism and the violations of human rights that we're speaking of. Mr. Speaker, the people of Russia--and I know many Russians; we all do--have great respect and love for us as well.

So, again, our goal is to bring an end to repressive policies and use, as my
friend so eloquently said, the economic strength of the United States that is exemplified in every American who is working in whatever capacity at all to see our economy grow. Because we're the only complete superpower left in the world today, the only complete superpower. By virtue of that, I mean militarily, economically, and geopolitically. And we have to step up to the plate and continue to exercise that strong leadership role; and passage of permanent normal trade relations, taking this step will go a long way towards doing just that.

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my friends who participated. And I know, as I've asked for general leave, others who wanted to be here who were unable to are going to be joining in submitting statements for the Record.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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