In August of 2012, Russia formally became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), impacting trade with US companies. Without revision to American trade rules, Russia could deny U.S. exporters the market benefits other WTO countries like Germany, Japan, Brazil, and even China would enjoy.
By repealing a Soviet-era amendment to a 1974 trade law, the House of Representatives voted Friday to ensure American industry has access to Russian markets and increased opportunities to sell U.S.-made products to the growing Russian middle class. The Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal Act (H.R. 6156), which Rep. Murphy supported, ensures American companies will have reduced tariffs levels, can compete with fewer subsidized Russian products and will enjoy stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights and trade laws.
Locally, companies like the Jeannette-based Elliott Company, which employs 900 people in Southwestern Pennsylvania and does $30 million in business within Russia annually, will be impacted by this legislation. Founded in 1901, Elliott designs and builds heavy-duty steam turbines, air and gas compressors, and power-generating equipment for use in oil and gas fields, refineries, chemical processing plants, steel mills, electric generating stations, sugar and paper mills and various mining operations. Elliott currently competes with German companies for most of their orders from Russia and without this revision to the US trade laws, Elliott would be at a competitive disadvantage with German and other WTO country competitors.
The legislation also ensures American businesses can use the WTO dispute-settlement system to challenge Russian trade actions. The United States consistently sets high standards for trade in the global marketplace and the WTO dispute settlement allows domestic companies to hold foreign competitors to the same standard. With this bill, U.S. companies can appeal Russian trade violations directly to the WTO.
The White House aggressively advanced the legislation in Congress, saying it will provide "opportunities for American businesses and workers and [create] jobs here at home." The Administration will be required to report on Russia's implementation of its WTO member nation obligations and on U.S. efforts to promote the rule of law in Russia. The bill also would create a mechanism for U.S. entities to report instances of bribery and corruption in Russia.
The measure passed Friday includes a human rights provision that will sanction Russian human rights violators by denying them entry into the United States and freezing their U.S.-linked assets. The sanctions are directed at those responsible for gross violations of human rights, such as extrajudicial killings or torture. And they would explicitly target individuals tied to the case of anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky, for whom the provision is named.