For more than a decade, American workers and manufacturers have paid the price for China’s failure to abide by the commitments it made when joining the WTO, and our government’s slow response to counter these practices with enforcement measures. From currency manipulation, to not offering reciprocal access to its government procurement market, to hoarding rare earth materials, China has ignored its international commitments. Our experience with China proves we must more closely monitor our trade partners’ commitments before workers and businesses are injured by them.
Like any trade agreement, commitments must be adhered to otherwise they are not worth negotiating. Our workers, farmers, ranchers, and producers should have confidence that if a trade deal is signed, it will actually be enforced.
As part of its WTO accession, Russia committed to lower or remove tariffs on manufactured goods, ensure predictability by capping quota levels and tariff rates for meat and poultry, and to meet international standards on intellectual property rights.
The legislation extending Russia PNTR includes enforcement measures, several based on legislation I introduced earlier this year. By requiring the U.S. Trade Representative to monitor Russia’s compliance with its WTO obligations, publish an annual report on our actions to promote compliance, and establish a formal and public process for business and workers to weigh in on Russia’s progress, we can ensure that our trade relations with Russia put American interests first and build confidence that our government will enforce the rules. As an additional measure of commitment, I appreciate the Administration’s willingness to ensure that senior personnel at the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) – who have served our government in Russia and are fluent in Russian – are held accountable for monitoring Russia’s compliance with its WTO commitments.
While there are economic opportunities for American businesses and workers from Russia PNTR, we cannot ignore the Russian government’s consolidation of power and crackdown on political opponents, including the Russian media. Russian leadership has taken a step back from much of the progress made toward a free and open society in recent years, all the while not doing enough to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon or helping to oust Syria’s President Assad. Yet despite these challenges, we should not turn our backs as Russia continues breaking free from its totalitarian past.
There are strong economic and democratic forces that continue to thrive in Russia. These forces for change must be supported and allowed to grow. We must not forget how far Russia has come; or how far it has to go.
In 1974, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.) and Rep. Charles Vanik (D-Ohio), the son of a Cleveland butcher, offered an amendment to a trade bill that used the leverage of the U.S. market to deny favorable trade status to countries that restrict emigration. While the Jackson-Vanik law became antiquated more than a decade ago, it proved that trade can be an instrument for improving human rights and the rule of law. Russia PNTR now includes the important Magnitsky legislation, which will impose travel and financial penalties on officials responsible for human rights abuses abroad. As Congress and the Administration look ahead to trade initiatives like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a U.S.-EU trade agreement, Congress can take new steps to ensure the benefits of expanded trade reach workers and small manufactures, not just multinational corporations. I’ve introduced the 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act, which would mandate trade pact reviews, establish labor, environmental, and consumer product standards, protect workers in developing nations, and help restore Congressional oversight to future trade agreements.
While Russia PNTR represents an incremental revision, our workers and businesses deserve a new more robust American trade policy. We must build on this step to ensure that, over the long-term, promises made are promises kept. It’s time we practice trade so that it achieves real results for middle class families and promotes lasting job creation.
Brown is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.