Remarks by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
To the U.S.-Russia Business Council
Office of the United States Trade Representative
July 24, 2012
(as prepared for delivery)
“Thanks to the U.S.-Russia Business Council staff and all of the member companies. You provided vital support to USTR during the WTO accession negotiations with Russia. And you continue to play a critical role as we work together to obtain Congressional action on a bill that will ensure the WTO Agreement applies between the United States and Russia.
“I’m pleased to be with you all at an important moment for the United States, for Russia, and for businesses in both countries. Yesterday, Russia notified the WTO that it has accepted its terms of accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). I don’t need to tell this crowd that this is, without a doubt, a historic event. Fewer than thirty days from now Russia will become the 156th Member of the WTO. In some ways, this is the end of a long road that started almost 20 years ago. Russia has amended and adopted laws, regulations, and other measures to create the legal framework needed to implement the WTO rules.
“Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is getting closer to completing important steps that will ensure the WTO Agreement applies between the United States and Russia. Last Wednesday, the United States Senate Finance Committee reported out of committee legislation that will terminate application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment and authorize the President to extend permanent normal trade relations to Russia. We congratulated Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch, and applauded the Finance Committee’s unanimous vote to authorize PNTR extension to Russia and Moldova.
“Similarly, we are pleased that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp and Ranking Member Levin have come together to schedule a full committee markup this Thursday of a bill that is based on what the Finance Committee approved. As we continue to work with Congress, our priority is to put legislation on the President’s desk for signature as soon as possible.
“Today, we’ll talk about what’s at stake with the legislation Congress is currently considering. I look forward to hearing directly from you how passage of this important trade measure will help support American jobs by boosting your exports of U.S. goods and services to Russia. You all know the benefits of extending PNTR for your businesses, so I’ll just briefly summarize some of the highlights before we begin the discussion.
“This bill will help protect U.S. intellectual property, which supports well-paying jobs for innovators and creators across America. This bill will help ensure that U.S. exporters of agricultural products – such as soybeans, corn, pork, poultry, and dairy – benefit from Russia’s WTO commitment to base its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures on international standards. Similarly, this bill will help support U.S. manufacturers who need the benefits of Russia’s WTO commitments to enhance transparency of mandatory and voluntary standards (TBT), and to reduce other non-tariff barriers to trade. This bill will help bring U.S. service providers the benefits of Russia’s WTO commitment to open its services markets in sectors such as audio-visual services, telecommunications, computer services, and financial services. Similarly, this bill will help keep America’s IT exporters competitive in Russia as it joins the Information Technology Agreement. And finally, of course, this bill will provide the United States with more trade enforcement tools to hold Russia accountable for its WTO commitments. These tools will include the WTO’s function as a multilateral forum, where we will be able to air, address, and resolve trade disputes more efficiently and effectively.
“All of these benefits are on the table right now. Recent actions by the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees have moved us closer to securing them. But they won’t be in your hands until the WTO agreement applies between the United States and Russia. And failure to pass a Jackson-Vanik/PNTR bill could jeopardize well-paying jobs here at home.
“As we mark the significant progress made so far, it’s important for everyone to stay focused on the positive impact that Russia PNTR will have on U.S. trade and jobs, so that we can pursue a legislative path forward. Thank you.”