Now that we've turned the page on the campaign season, Congress has the opportunity to focus on measures that will help revitalize the American economy. This week, we see an opportunity to do exactly that as the House of Representatives is expected to vote on legislation that would establish a permanent, normal trade relationship (PNTR) with Russia and waive outdated Cold War-era emigration laws that Russia satisfied years ago.
Both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee already approved Russia PNTR legislation without one formal vote in opposition, and for one simple reason: Russia PNTR is good for the U.S. economy – it will create new markets for U.S. exports, and new job opportunities for U.S. companies.
The Russia PNTR legislation is also necessary due to Russia’s recent membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has been almost two decades in the making. But before the American economy can enjoy any of the trade benefits with Russia, Congress must pass PNTR legislation. In fact, American companies and workers are the only WTO members not currently enjoying predictable trade with the world’s 9th largest economy and reduced tariffs and costs associated with Russian trade.
In recent years, we have seen significant increases in U.S. exports to Russia – up 40% from 2010 to 2011. Russia’s joining the WTO and congressional passage of Russia PNTR could result in U.S. exports to Russia being double what they were in 2008, adding jobs in sectors ranging from manufacturing to high-tech.
The combination of Russia’s WTO membership and PNTR legislation would bring important new intellectual property protections for U.S. innovators, more predictability with a growing market for U.S. tech businesses large and small, and perhaps most important, help us hold Russia to its commitment to join the Information Technology Agreement (ITA). The ITA has been the most commercially successful trade agreement for the U.S. tech sector, eliminating tariffs on a wide array of IT products. With Russia in the WTO, it needs to fulfill its commitment to join the ITA.
Now that the political season in the U.S. is finally over, policymakers can bring renewed focus on U.S. economic revitalization. The full benefits of Russia’s WTO membership for the U.S. economy won’t be felt absent congressional action on Russia PNTR. It’s time for Congress to act and pass Russia PNTR.