December 05,2012

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Baucus Urges Senate to Pass Bill Boosting U.S. Exports to Russia

Floor Statement as Prepared for Delivery

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, or PNTR, with Russia this year. But in July, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved legislation to do just that. 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 is it obvious? Jobs. PNTR will mean more jobs and 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. And if we do, American exports to Russia are projected to double in five 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 Russia’s telecommunications and banking markets.

It also includes strong commitments to protect intellectual property and to follow sound science on agricultural imports. And it includes greater transparency on Russian laws and binding WTO dispute settlement.

All 155 countries in the WTO receive these benefits from Russia right now. That is to say, every single member of the WTO except one — the United States of America – receive 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 can’t let this stand. When Russia joined the WTO in August, we Americans gave up nothing. We will give up nothing when we pass PNTR legislation now. We change no U.S. tariffs and no U.S. trade laws. This is a one-sided deal in favor of American exporters.

In my home state of Montana, one in five jobs is tied to agriculture, and ranching is a major driver of our agriculture economy. When Montana ranchers can sell more beef in Russia, they can support more workers in Montana. It’s that simple, and it’s a similar story in states all across our country.

I know that passing PNTR won’t solve all of our trade problems with Russia. But it gives us new tools to tackle those problems, like binding dispute settlement. And thanks to the efforts of Senators Hatch, Stabenow, Rockefeller, Brown and others, this bill includes strong measures to ensure Russia complies 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 human rights abuses in Russia.

The 1974 Jackson-Vanik human rights provision, which the PNTR legislation repeals, addressed one of the biggest human rights abuses in Russia at that time. And it succeeded. For the last twenty years, Jews have been able to freely emigrate from Russia. Jackson Vanik is outdated as a result. Jewish emigration from Russia is no longer an issue.

Senator Cardin has courageously pushed the Magnitsky legislation for years, and I commend his efforts.

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 anti-corruption 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 further behind their competitors. We owe it to them to pass this legislation. We owe it to them to make it inevitable.