Ros-Lehtinen wants strings attached to Russia trade bill

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) told a hearing that Congress should not lift restrictions on trade with Russia, by lifting the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment, without "first holding Moscow accountable for actions that run contrary to U.S. national security interests and to such foreign policy priorities as the promotion of human rights and democracy."

Russia will be joining the World Trade Organization this summer, and the administration argues that failure to lift Jackson-Vanik will only hurt U.S. exporters. Russia will join the WTO with or without congressional approval.

Ros-Lehtinen said WTO membership was a gift from the United States to a human-rights violator.

“The most recent gift was U.S. approval last December of Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization, including pressuring our ally Georgia to go along despite the fact that Russia continues to occupy its territory. Russia’s entry into the WTO, with U.S. support, is astounding given Russia continues to be one of the biggest violators of intellectual property rights, robbing U.S. citizens and companies of billions of dollars every year," she added.

She said Jackson-Vanik "has long been a symbol of U.S. commitment to human rights and democracy in Russia."

"Removing Russia from its provisions would be interpreted in Moscow and elsewhere as a seal of approval from the U.S. Congress, even as the human-rights situation in Russia continues to deteriorate," she added.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said this month that he, too, wants conditions attached to the Russia trade bill.