House to vote on Russia trade

The House next week is expected to pass legislation that would give Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status, which would allow the United States to benefit from Russia's August accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The House Rules Committee announced Friday that it will hold a meeting on Tuesday to approve a rule that governs floor consideration of the bill, H.R. 6156. That implies that the House will start work on the bipartisan measure as early as Wednesday, and complete it by the end of the week.

The bill removes Russia from the Jackson-Vanik rule, which requires the U.S. to review the trade status of some countries annually, and grant temporary normal trade status based on the emigration policies of the listed countries.

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But WTO members are required to give each other permanent trade status, and failing to grant PNTR to Russia would mean the U.S. cannot benefit from the concessions Russia made when it joined the WTO.

"If the United States does not grant Russia PNTR by the time that Russia becomes a WTO member, the committee believes that U.S. companies, workers and farmers will be disadvantaged versus their competitors from other WTO members because the United States would not benefit from all of Russia’s concessions," the Ways and Means Committee wrote in a report accompanying the bill.

"Not granting Russia PNTR will simply ensure that the benefits of Russia's membership in the WTO go only to our foreign competitors, not us," Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said in July when he introduced the bill. The bill is being supported by several other Republicans and Democrats on the committee, including ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.).

While the bill is expected to pass the House, it contains somewhat controversial language aimed at addressing the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 after allegedly being tortured and held by Russian authorities on what many say were trumped-up charges.

Many House members supported a bill that seeks to penalize those responsible for his death, and that measure was added to the PNTR bill. The language would specifically impose visa restrictions and asset freezes on those Russian officials responsible.

The bill also grants PNTR status to Moldova.

The Tuesday meeting at the Rules Committee is being deemed an "emergency" meeting because it was members were not given two days of legislative notice. Monday does not count because of the Veterans Day holiday.