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Public Statements

Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. COLLINS. Madam President, I rise to speak on the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act that is currently before the Senate. As a cosponsor of Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, I am very pleased to see this important human rights legislation move forward, and I want to commend Senators Cardin, McCain, and others who have worked so hard on this bill for getting us to this point.

The bill that we are considering today would repeal the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment with respect to Russia, which my colleagues know tied trade relations to the right of free emigration, and replace it with a tough new law to impose sanctions on Russians deemed to have grossly violated human rights.

The bill is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer who died on November 16, 2009, in Matrosskaya Tishina Prison in Moscow. He was jailed in 2008 after exposing a massive tax fraud by officials of Russia's Interior Ministry. While in jail, he became ill but was denied medical treatment; he was brutally beaten and left to die. This bill is clearly targeted to go after the perpetrators of human rights violations in Russia, including those involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, and would require the President name and sanction those individuals, subject to a waiver for national security interests. Those listed by the President could be denied visas to enter the United States and have their assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Just yesterday the Washington Post ran a large spread detailing the current state of political affairs in Russia. I want to read an excerpt from that article:

Since his return to the presidency in March, (President Vladimir) Putin has relentlessly demonstrated his determination to quell dissent.

In an apparent attempt to scare off demonstrators, 17 protesters are being prosecuted for their part in a May 6 rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration, accused of attacking police officers. One has already been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

A newly passed law defines treason so broadly that some Russians are afraid that even associating with foreigners could put them at peril. The penalties for slander and violations of rules governing rallies have been toughened. As of Nov. 21, nongovernmental organizations that receive money from abroad must register as foreign Ðagents .....

..... One by one, opposition leaders have come under intense pressure. Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger, has been charged with bribery in a recently resurrected three-year-old case. Sergei Udaltsov, a socialist leader, has been charged with plotting mass disorder.

One of his associates, Leonid Razvozzhayev, accused Russian authorities of abducting him in Ukraine, where he was seeking asylum. On Nov. 22, Russian investigators said they would not investigate the case because Razvozzhayev had not presented convincing evidence that he had been spirited out of Ukraine.

In September, Gennady Gudkov, like Putin a former KGB agent, was stripped of his parliamentary seat after he aligned himself with protesters.

The article goes on to detail further acts of intimidation by the Russian Government aimed at voices of dissent. It makes clear that despite all of the talk of a ``reset'' in U.S.-Russia relations, this is not a regime that shares our values when it comes to democratic freedoms and other human rights.

Over the last several weeks, there have been news reports that the Kremlin has claimed this bill in some way infringes on Russian sovereignty. That is simply not the case. The bill does not require the Russian Government to take any action against human rights abusers it does not want, but it does say that those abusers may not enter the United States or access our financial system. This bill reaffirms our values, and makes a clear statement that the United States stands for dignity, respect, and the rule of law when it comes to internationally recognized human rights.

Finally, I do want to say a few words about the trade facilitation aspects of this bill. By repealing Jackson-Vanik with respect to Russia and Moldova, this bill will ensure that U.S. businesses and their employees will be able to realize the benefits of Russia's and Moldova's membership in the World Trade Organization. With respect to Russia, these benefits include additional market access for U.S. service providers and civil aircraft; improved intellectual property enforcement; consistent science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures; and new dispute settlement tools to enforce WTO rules.

Last year, Maine exported $14 million worth of goods to Russia, including $8.1 million worth of aircraft parts and $5 million worth of cattle. Granting Russia PNTR can help cement this trade relationship by providing U.S. businesses more certainty that their investments will be protected. A Peterson Institute for International Economics study estimates that the volume of U.S. exports of merchandise and services to Russia could double from $11 billion in 2011 to $22 billion over about 5 years as a result of granting Russian permanent normal trade relations, or PNTR.

Additionally, the bill includes strong reporting requirements on Russia's compliance with its WTO commitments and directs the U.S. Trade Representative to develop a plan for action on areas where Russia does not live up to its WTO requirements.

I urge all my colleagues to support this bill.

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