On a 92-4 landslide vote, the Senate today approved H.R. 6156, a bill that would establish permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia. The bill now heads to the President's desk for signature into law.
Specifically, the bill repeals the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War relic that makes U.S. preferential tariff rates on Russian products conditional on the country allowing Jews and other minorities to emigrate freely. Its presence on U.S. books is considered discriminatory, meaning Russia has, since joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in August, been within its rights to increase tariffs on products entering the country until the U.S. repealed the amendment.
The bill's passage means that U.S. companies can begin to take advantage of the concessions Russia made in its accession agreement with the WTO, including increased access to several of the nation's fastest-growing markets.
H.R. 6156 also normalizes trade relations with Moldova and imposes sanctions on Russian human rights violators, particularly persons identified as responsible for the detention, abuse or death of Russian human rights lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009.
Approval of the bill was not always a guarantee in the Senate, as a group of prominent senators sought to expand the so-called Magnitsky provisions to apply to human rights violators from all countries, rather than just those in Russia. The expanded version of the measure was authored by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) who dropped his objections to moving forward with H.R. 6156 while debating the bill last night. "I hope we will make this statutorily global," he said. "We will have that debate at a later date."
- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer