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Russia and the Jackson-Vanik Amendment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier) for 5 minutes.

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of issues with which we have to contend around here. Obviously there are dramatic increases in gasoline prices. We are going to be dealing with the budget this week. FCC reform is on the agenda for today. But one issue that hasn't gotten a great deal of attention that we are going to be addressing in the coming weeks and months is whether or not we deal with the issue of so-called ``Jackson-Vanik legislation'' and allow us to proceed with extending permanent normal trade relations for us to be able to trade with Russia.

Mr. Speaker, as we look at this issue, there are a number of factors that need to be addressed: first and foremost, what impact is this going to have on our Nation's job creators, those who are trying to grow our economy; and equally, if not more, important is the impact on human rights, the development of the rule of law, and the building of democratic institutions in Russia.

Now, we all heard the statement that was made by the President just yesterday in his off-microphone discussion with President Medvedev about how things are going to go and the flexibility he'll have in his second term. Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that one thing that is very important for us to recognize is, there is action that we can take today that will allow us to deal not only with the notion of our creating jobs here in the United States of America but also tackling the very important human rights issue.

Let's also realize that Russia is going to be a member of the World Trade Organization. All that's necessary now is for the Duma, the Russian Parliament, to ratify their accession. The question is, will U.S. workers have access to the Russian market? And that's very important. But also, as we look at the challenges of getting our economy growing, we recognize that that is a priority. But as I said, Mr. Speaker, it's also very, very, very critical for us to do everything that we can to ensure the development of those democratic institutions in Russia, the development of the rule of law, which we all know has been lacking based on what we've seen in the last election, and also to ensure the kinds of human rights and women's rights that have been ignored.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with my colleagues a little bit of a letter that was just put forward by a half-dozen of the lead human rights activists in Russia. These are not my words. These are the words of these human rights activists. They say:

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

They go on to say:

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 Russia from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. Jackson-Vanik is not helpful in any way, neither for the promotion of human rights and democracy in Russia nor for the economic interests of its people.

Mr. Speaker, it's high time that we tackle this issue to ensure that we can promote human rights, the rule of law, and the development of democratic institutions in Russia and ensure that we, for the American worker, can create job opportunities right here in the United States.

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