Earlier this year, over protests from the country’s communist party, Russia agreed to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). Now Congress is considering legislation that essentially says, “We want U.S. companies to benefit from the concessions Russia made to join the WTO.”
This would be accomplished by ending application of the Jackson–Vanik amendment and providing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia.
This economically beneficial trade legislation is being considered alongside the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which would deny U.S. visas for, and allow seizure of ill-gotten assets of, officials who are responsible for gross violations of human rights. Targeted legislation such as the Magnitsky Act would be an effective way to encourage Russia to respect the rights of its citizens.
Time is running out for Congress to act this year. As one recent headline announced, “Russia trade and human rights bills delayed until after election.” But that judgment may have been premature. On August 2, House majority leader Eric Cantor (R–VA) announced that the House was ready to pass both measures so long as the Senate and President Obama pledged to support passage by the end of September.
If those conditions are met, then there is still time for Congress to act. Supporters of expanded trade and human rights are hoping that this opportunity is not missed.