Yesterday, in a rare showing of bipartisanship, the lame-duck Senate passed the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal Act of 2012 by a vote of 92–4.
The Senate took up the version of the bill that passed by an overwhelming majority in the U.S. House of Representatives last month, which grants Russia—now a World Trade Organization (WTO) member—permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status. This would mean that Russia would no longer be subject to the Jackson–Vanik Amendment, an important tool for promoting human rights during the Cold War that is no longer relevant in the 21st century, as emigration from Russia is now free.
Without PNTR, U.S. firms doing business in the $400 billion Russian market would be unable to fully benefit from the concessions Russia made to join the WTO. They would remain at a disadvantage in the global marketplace.
The bill contains language known as the Magnitsky Act, which punishes Russian officials implicated in serious human rights abuses. The Magnitsky Act puts Russian officials who blatantly and systematically abuse human rights on a U.S. no-visa list and allows U.S. law enforcement to freeze their assets where the writ of American law applies. Replacing the Jackson–Vanik Amendment with the Magnitsky Act would more effectively encourage Russia—and other countries that systematically abuse human rights—to respect the rights of their citizens.
The Heritage Foundation has been at the forefront of this issue since the beginning, arguing that the U.S. should not juxtapose human rights and business. Both are important U.S. priorities and reflect our cherished values. And while, officially, Moscow may be fuming for now, its long-term interest lies in growing U.S.–Russian business ties.
Heritage applauds the Senate for continuing the work of the House and providing a solution that pinpoints and punishes gross violators of human rights while ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness abroad.
The bill now goes to the President’s desk for his approval before becoming law.