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The Coalition for U.S.-Russia Trade, comprised to date of more than 70 business associations, companies and agricultural groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Farm Bureau Federation, welcomed the announcement made by the WTO’s Ministerial Conference in Geneva to formally invite Russia to become a member of the global rules-based body.
The Coalition’s task now is to work with the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration to pass necessary legislation that makes Russia’s market concessions fully available to U.S. business and agriculture.
“Russia is the 11th largest economy in the world, yet it is still not bound by the international principles and standards of the WTO. Today’s invitation brings Russia one step closer to abiding by and adhering to global rules.
We applaud the negotiators from the United States, Russia and other WTO members, without whose dedication and hard work this historic moment would not have been possible,” said Edward Verona, President and CEO of the U.S.-Russia Business Council (USRBC), the Washington, D.C.-based trade association that serves as Secretariat of the Coalition for U.S.-Russia Trade.
“The terms of Russia’s WTO accession agreement will provide businesses in the United States the opportunity to operate with greater transparency and predictability in the Russian market – but only once the U.S. Congress graduates Russia from the Jackson-Vanik amendment and extends Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR),” Verona added.
Russia’s WTO membership agreement stipulates that the Russian government must ratify the accession package by June 15, 2012. Once the agreement is approved by Russia’s legislature and signed by the Russian President, the Russian government will notify the WTO of its approval, and 30 days later Russia will officially become a member of the WTO.
For now, the Obama Administration has invoked what is known as “non-application,” notifying the WTO that the United States cannot yet offer Russia immediate and unconditional free trade status, as WTO rules require. Thus, Russia is not obligated to grant U.S. business and agriculture full rights to the wide range of concessions it made to become a WTO member.
Thus, while the achievement of a high-standards deal on Russia’s accession is cause for celebration, the U.S. business and agricultural communities realize their work is not done.
“We now need to help Congress understand that, without Russia PNTR, the U.S. private sector is going to miss out on growing export and investment opportunities in Russia that will create and sustain jobs here in the United States,” said Randi Levinas, Executive Director of the Coalition and Executive Vice President of the USRBC.
“The Jackson-Vanik amendment no longer provides us with leverage in our relationship with Russia. It now stands only as an impediment for U.S. economic interests. We will be working hard in the coming months with the Congressional leadership, the committees of jurisdiction and the Administration so that U.S. interests can take full advantage of Russia’s accession in a timely fashion.