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Mr. MEEKS. I want to first thank ranking member Howard Berman for his leadership on this, as well as to thank Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen.
I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 6156, the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. Granting permanent normal trade relations with Russia and Moldova is long overdue; and with this vote we look to the future and put aside some longstanding vestiges of the Cold War.
I strongly endorse granting permanent normal trade relations to Moldova. Since 2001, when Moldova entered the World Trade Organization, the United States has been in noncompliance with WTO rules because Congress has failed to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment. Moldova is a Western-oriented, fully democratic country, and Moldova deserves to be treated as an economic partner so we can strengthen our ties to her further.
We will hear lots today about the economic, human rights, and foreign policy implications of this bill; and Russia will be at the center of the debate.
But I hope that we do not lose sight of this most basic point. At its core, today's vote on Russian PNTR is about an evolving relationship. The U.S.-Russia relationship has been at the top of our foreign policy agenda for more than half a century. The fact that the House has deliberated for so long to bring H.R. 6156 to the floor is an indication that this is still an important relationship.
In 1974, when the Jackson-Vanik amendment was enacted, there was a Soviet Union, and the purpose of the amendment was to end the Soviet Union's policy that prevented the immigration of Jews. The objective has long since been met, and since 1991, Russia terminated fees on Russian immigrants. This is why, since 1992, the United States has certified that Russia complies with Jackson-Vanik and we have normal trade relations with Russia.
The bill before us today simply makes that policy permanent. It also replaces the human rights policy of a bygone era with a more appropriate one for the issues in Russia today. In so doing, we allow U.S. businesses to take advantage of the many rules-based market opening and tariff reducing commitments that were part of the Russians' WTO accession package, and we uphold our longstanding commitment to protecting human rights and human dignity.
Madam Speaker, we are nearly 3 months behind our biggest global competitors. The U.S. is the only one of the over 150 WTO members that did not immediately benefit from Russia joining the WTO. We are the only one. Only until we repeal Jackson-Vanik, Russia has a right to suspend all agreed upon WTO trade concessions with regard to the U.S. We're talking about losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars in just tariff cuts alone. Passage of this bill will expand our engagement with Russia and better facilitate the exporting of our goods.
But trade is never just about the movement of goods and services. It is also about the transformative flow of people, ideas, best practices, and values. Increased trade may be the most efficient way yet to promote rule of law, fight corruption, support human rights, and inspire a civil society in Russia.
With passage of H.R. 6156, we get beyond the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War relic, and level the playing field for American businesses and provide encouragement for whistleblowers. Therefore, I ask my colleagues to support this bill.
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