February 20,2012

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Baucus Meets with Russian President, Economic and Trade Leaders to Pursue New Opportunities for U.S. Businesses

Finance Chair: Expanded Trade with Russia Could Mean Billions in New Exports, Thousands of Jobs at Home

Washington, DC Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) met today with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to pursue new trade opportunities for U.S. businesses, ranchers and farmers, including through permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia as part of its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and to discuss foreign policy and other issues.  Congress must approve Russia PNTR this year in order to capitalize on market access for U.S. exports that Russia’s WTO accession will provide.  Traveling in Moscow and St. Petersburg this week, Baucus also met today with First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who serves as Russia’s top official on economic and trade issues, and Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina.

“Expanding trade with Russia could mean billions of dollars of new opportunities for American businesses, ranchers and farmers and create thousands of jobs here at home.  But Russia has to play by the rules, and having Russia in the WTO will help to make that happen,” Baucus said.  “Russia has made progress opening its economy over the past two decades, and it’s critical this progress continues through its WTO accession.  Russia now needs to end its unscientific barriers to agricultural products like beef, poultry, pork and dairy, and it needs to improve enforcement of intellectual property rights.  Establishing permanent normal trade relations with Russia would be a major boost for our exports and will help us address these serious issues in the WTO.”

Baucus, along with his fellow trade leaders in Congress, has insisted on holding Russia to a high standard through the WTO accession process to guarantee that American workers, ranchers, farmers and businesses benefit.  WTO Members formally invited Russia to join the WTO in December 2011.  Under the rules governing the accession process, Russia will become a WTO Member 30 days after it ratifies its accession agreement, which it must do by early July.  If by that point Congress has not passed legislation providing Russia with PNTR, the United States would not receive the full benefits of Russia joining the WTO and U.S. businesses could lose out on lucrative business opportunities.  U.S. exports to Russia, currently $9 billion per year, are expected to double within five years as a result of Russia joining the WTO.

As part of Russia’s WTO accession agreement, it will begin accepting a greater amount of U.S. beef exports, by allowing 60,000 tons of U.S. beef to be sold in Russia under a reduced tariff of 15 percent.  Russia is already America’s fifth-largest export market for American beef by volume.  And Russia’s WTO accession will also help improve its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) policies, which place unnecessary, strict requirements on production processes and facilities that are outside normal industry practices and hurt American agricultural exports.  Baucus also asked how Russia is strengthening enforcement of intellectual property rights, human rights and the rule of law, and addressing other foreign policy issues, including Syria and Iran.