Hatch Statement at Finance Committee markup of Bill Establishing Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, today delivered the following opening statement at a committee markup on four trade bills, including legislation to grant Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR):
Today we are meeting to consider a number of highly important trade initiatives. At the top of the list is legislation to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations by removing them from the Jackson-Vanik amendment. It is with some trepidation that we undertake this task. Despite President Obama’s reset policy, U.S.-Russian relations remain rocky at best. Russia continues to define itself as a counter-weight to U.S. policies around the world. At the same time Russia seeks to reestablish hegemony over much of the former Soviet bloc.
Russia’s human rights abuses, corruption, and poor respect for the rule of law are well known. Yet, the reality is that Russia will likely be a full-fledged member of the World Trade Organization by the end of this summer. If we do not act to grant PNTR to Russia, our workers and job-creators could be left at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis our foreign competitors. Given the slow growth of our economy and continued high unemployment rate, we simply cannot allow that to happen.
So I will be voting in favor of granting PNTR for Russia today. This decision is significantly easier due to the willingness of Chairman Baucus to work with me over the last several weeks to make sure that many of the concerns raised throughout this process were addressed in the legislative package we are considering today. I want to publicly thank Chairman Baucus, and all the members of the Finance Committee, particularly those on my side of the aisle, for working with me to develop a robust package of modifications to PNTR that will hold both Russia and the Administration accountable, and for including PNTR for Moldova. I also want to recognize the work of Senators Cardin and Kyl, along with many others, for helping to craft legislation to hold corrupt Russian government officials accountable for their actions. I understand that this legislation is now part of the Chairman’s mark.
There a are a number of other important bills we will be considering today, including a modified version of the ENFORCE Act, which will strengthen Customs and Border Protection’s efforts to combat anti-dumping and countervailing duty evasion. This bill will provide American producers with more transparency into CBP’s efforts and will hold CBP accountable for ensuring that AD/CVD duties are paid. I want to commend Senators Wyden, Snowe, Schumer, Coburn, Cardin, and Burr for co-sponsoring the ENFORCE Act and for their dedication to tackling this important trade issue. Ever since Senator Wyden first offered his ENFORCE bill as an amendment to the U.S.-Korea implementing legislation, my staff has been working along with Chairman Baucus’ team and Senator Wyden’s staff, to help develop the bill we will be considering today. I think by working together we have developed a strong and well-balanced bill, and for that reason I expect it will receive significant bipartisan support today.
We will also be considering legislation that extends the third-country fabric provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This will help many struggling workers in Africa continue to benefit from this important program and benefit U.S. businesses as well.
In addition, the bill implements mutually agreed upon modifications to the textile and apparel rules-of-origin provisions of the CAFTA-DR agreement. All the other CAFTA countries have implemented these modifications except the United States. The modifications cannot go into effect until all the CAFTA countries implement them. While these modifications are highly technical, they will help the agreement operate more effectively and efficiently, so that it can continue to fulfill its potential as an engine of opportunity and growth in Central America, the Dominican Republican and the United States.
Finally, this bill reauthorizes our statutory sanctions regime on Burma. This provides the Administration with the continued flexibility to ease trade and investment rules between the United States and Burma, while at the same time retaining the ability to re-impose sanctions should the situation in Burma deteriorate. I am quite hopeful about the change taking place in Burma. The Burmese people have suffered for much too long under the yoke of poverty and oppression. While much work remains, I want to publicly acknowledge the leadership of the current governing party as well as those newly elected representatives in working to forge a new and open Burmese society, one we hope will be founded on the rule of law and economic opportunity for all.
We will also be considering legislation that authorizes, extends, or modifies three trust funds for citrus, cotton, and wool products. I know these bills are important for many members of the Committee, and that in order to complete today’s work, it was necessary that they be considered.
Because of the good faith work of many Members of this committee, most of the legislation we will be considering today should receive strong bipartisan support. Today’s markup shows what we can accomplish when we work together. This stands in sharp contrast to the process undertaken last year during consideration of our FTAs and TAA, which devolved into acrimony and dysfunction. This committee has some very important work ahead of it, in trade, taxes and health care reform. I hope that today’s mark-up will serve as a model of what we can achieve by working together as we strive to tackle many other highly complex and important tasks in the future. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
NOTE: Today, the Finance Committee will also markup the following trade bills: a modified version of the Enforcing Orders and Reducing Customs Evasion (ENFORCE) Act; a proposal to establish, renew, or modify the citrus, wool and cotton trust funds; and legislation to extend a key provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), make non-controversial technical changes to the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) textiles and apparel provisions and reauthorize import sanctions against Burma for three years