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Public Statements

Russia and Moldova PNTR

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, in this day and age, there is simply no denying that our economy is very much a part of a global economy and affected by it. Gone are the days when businesses relied solely on growing their customer base for domestic markets. Today, 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States, and we are producing for those consumers as well as domestic ones.

One action that would help our economy improve at a faster rate would be to increase trade opportunities overseas for American businesses and farmers. Increased trade helps create jobs, increase incomes, and expand opportunities for innovation.

As we have seen over the course of history and also repeating what President John F. Kennedy often spoke about, free and fair trade helps all boats rise;

That is to say, countries willing to lower their trade barriers and allow fair and competitive trade will see growth in their economies.

However, history also shows even among nations with good relations, trade disputes still arise. That is why we need a forum to settle international disputes such as the World Trade Organization does. The WTO allows American businesses a place to take complaints against unfair trade barriers and have a judicial result.

For 19 years Russia has worked toward entry into the World Trade Organization. Now they are in the World Trade Organization. I support Russia being in the World Trade Organization. As the world's eleventh largest economy with over 140 million citizens, it is obviously an important market for U.S. businesses and farmers looking to expand their overseas markets.

Some of Iowa's heavy equipment manufacturers are already exporting millions of dollars of equipment to Russia.

Agricultural equipment manufactured in facilities all around Iowa is being used by Russian farmers as they look to increase their agricultural efficiency and productivity.

The World Trade Organization accession process afforded us an opportunity to address Russian tariffs against our products. In the accession agreement, Russia has agreed to lower its tariffs for these construction and agricultural equipment products. That obviously means increased exports and an increase in good American jobs.

By far the largest percentage of Iowa exports to Russia consists of grains, meats, and other agricultural products being produced by Iowa's farmers. Russia's accession into the WTO has been an important issue for our pork producers, for our cattlemen, and for our grain farmers. Iowa's farmers are some of the best in the world. They are truly helping to feed the world. Expanding opportunities in overseas markets is vital to the future of American agriculture. Russia has been and I think will continue to be an important market for our farmers. But it does not come without its challenges.

Russia has repeatedly raised barriers to the U.S. imports based upon restrictions not supported by sound science. So now I am going to tell you about some problems I have with Russia, even though I want Russia to be in the WTO and I want this legislation to pass so it can be fully implemented.

I will share some things we have problems with regarding Russia. Let us take pork exports as an example. In 2008, U.S. pork sales to Russia totaled over 200,000 metric tons. Since that time exports have fallen nearly 60 percent due to Russia's reduced import quota and questionable sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions. I am pleased our trade negotiators were able to negotiate a satisfactory tariff rate quota for our pork. But this administration under President Obama has fallen short in its obligations to stand with U.S. farmers on these sanitary and phytosanitary standards; in other words, standing up for using sound science instead of some illegitimate reason for keeping our products out of Russia.

I have communicated time and again what I expected of this administration because they have to negotiate for us. In June 2011, I led a bipartisan letter with Senator Nelson of Nebraska and 26 other Senators to Ambassador Kirk requesting his negotiators follow the steps we have taken during consideration of past WTO accessions. I referred to China and Vietnam as examples for this administration to follow. When these countries joined the WTO, we used these opportunities to obtain firm sanitary-phytosanitary commitments from those countries that went beyond the WTO sanitary-phytosanitary agreement. In particular, we obtained further commitments in areas of meat inspection equivalence.

In addition, in June of this year, I sent another bipartisan letter with Senator Nelson of Nebraska and 32 other Senate colleagues to President Obama again laying out our request that he stand for American farmers and demand more of the Russian Government on sanitary-phytosanitary issues which would very much benefit our agriculture products going into Russia.

As we know, this administration did not use the accession process to fully address these crucial issues so they have to be addressed outside of this process where we do not quite have the leverage we would otherwise have. That is why I requested language that is in this legislation to require our trade negotiators to keep working with these unfair trade barriers and report to Congress on their progress. Our farmers are some of the very best in the world. We cannot allow their products to be discriminated against based upon arbitrary nonscientific and unjustifiable reasons.

In addition to the concerns I repeatedly raised on sanitary-phytosanitary issues, there are other issues at stake with Russia. It is a shame that we are handling this bill in a lameduck session when time is so limited. This bill should have been debated at a time when the Senate could more fully evaluate the current course of our relationship with Russia.

Russia continues to cause challenges in regard to Syria, Iran, and other regions of the world where the United States and our allies are trying to do what is right in the name of human dignity and also in the name of national security. I am concerned with Russia's own human rights issues. That is why I am very glad the Magnitsky provisions are in this bill.

As ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I remain troubled by the lack of progress Russia has made on protecting intellectual property rights. Furthermore, Russian officials need to step up their efforts in combating cyber crimes. There continues to be a large number of cyber attacks that originate from within Russia's borders.

All that being said, I realize having Russia in the WTO is a very positive step. One of the goals of international trade is to build upon relationships between nations. Having Russia in the WTO fold will hopefully benefit our nations as we work together on so many issues that concern us, plus, as I have stated before, having the WTO forum available to help our businesses and farmers when disputes arise is important.

I have said I want Russia in the WTO. I have said there are good opportunities for us there. I just spoke as to why I think there are problems with Russia that need to be worked out. President Putin is not going to pay any attention to what I say, but I want him to know these are issues of the re-Sovietization of the country and I do not like it. I favor this bill; I favor working with Russia. But they are becoming more of a problem. I look forward to hearing from our trade negotiators in the not too distant future on their progress in getting Russia to remove the unjustifiable barriers to our agricultural products.

Furthermore, as President Obama looks toward other trade initiatives in the future, I hope this accession process will be a lesson. This process could have been better, in other words, using the leverage the United States has during these accession negotiations to get a lot of these disputes settled as we did with China and Vietnam that we have not fully done with Russia.

The President has called on Congress to pass this legislation for some time. But his lack of consultation with Congress and disregard for the concerns raised by this Senator and other Members has only served to delay this whole process. We cannot keep approaching trade issues in this fashion. This administration needs to have real and substantive consultation with Congress.

Furthermore, when there are opportunities to stand for American businesses and farmers against unfair trade barriers such as the sanitary and phytosanitary issues in Russia, the President needs to seize that opportunity the same way it was seized in the case of Vietnam and in the case of China's accession.

I yield the floor.


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