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Russia-Moldova PNTR

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BAUCUS. I understand we are, in effect, debating Russian PNTR. Robert Louis Stevenson once said, ``The mark of a good action is that it appears inevitable in retrospect.'' When I traveled to Russia in February, many doubted that Congress would establish permanent normal trade relations, known as PNTR, with Russia this year. But in July the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved legislation to do just that. And last month the House of Representatives passed very similar Russia PNTR legislation with 365 ``yes'' votes. Passing PNTR clearly is a good action for the United States. It is also an obvious one. Why obvious? Jobs. PNTR will mean more job opportunities for American farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers.

Russia is a fast-growing market. For the United States to share in that growth, we must first pass PNTR. If we do, American exports to Russia are projected to double in 5 years. When Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August, it lowered its trade barriers to all WTO members who have PNTR with Russia. This is no small matter.

It includes lower tariffs on aircraft and auto exports, larger quotas for beef exports and greater access to Russian telecommunications and banking markets. It also includes strong commitments to protect intellectual property and to follow sound science on agricultural imports. It includes greater transparency on Russian laws and binding WTO dispute settlement. All very important.

One hundred fifty-five countries already receive these benefits in Russia. They receive those benefits right now. That is to say, every single member of the World Trade Organization--all 155 countries--except one, the United States of America, receives those benefits. So right now, companies and workers in China, Canada, and Europe can take full advantage of these export opportunities in Russia, the world's sixth largest economy. But U.S. companies and workers cannot.

We cannot let this stand. When Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August, we Americans gave up nothing. We will give up nothing if we pass PNTR legislation now. We change no U.S. tariffs, we change no U.S. trade laws. This is a one-sided deal in favor of American exporters.

In my home State of Montana, one out of five 5 jobs today is tied to agriculture. Ranching is a major driver of our agricultural economy. When Montana ranchers can sell more beef in Russia, they can support more workers in Montana. It is that simple. It is a similar story in States all across our country.

I know that passing PNTR will not solve all of our trade problems with Russia, but it gives us new tools to tackle these problems, such as binding dispute settlements. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Hatch, Stabenow, Rockefeller, Brown of Ohio, and others, this bill includes strong measures to ensure Russian compliance with its WTO obligations and that the administration enforces them.

This legislation also includes the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act to help fight criminal rights abuses in Russia. In 1974, Senator Jackson and Congressman Vanik teamed together to pass legislation called the Jackson-Vanik bill, which this legislation repeals. Jackson-Vanik addressed one of the biggest human rights abuses in Russia at that time. And it succeeded. For the last 20 years, Jews have been able to freely emigrate from Russia, what Jackson-Vanik was trying to address.

Jackson-Vanik is outdated. Jews can emigrate from Russia and this is no longer an issue. Senator Cardin has courageously pushed the Magnitsky legislation for years. I commend him. The Magnitsky provisions in this legislation address one of the biggest human rights abuses in Russia today. The bill would punish those responsible for the death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and others who commit human rights violations in Russia. It would do so by restricting their U.S. visas and freezing their U.S. assets.

Passing PNTR along with these provisions is the right thing to do. In closing, I urge my colleagues to follow the words of Robert Louis Stevenson and take good action. Every day we wait, U.S. farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers fall farther behind their competitors. We owe it to them to pass this legislation. We owe it to them to make it inevitable.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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