Former trade representatives tout Russia trade

"Until Congress takes this step, the United States — alone among all WTO members — will not have the ability to enforce the market opening, intellectual property rights and other WTO commitments that Russia has made."

Congress needs to repeal Jackson-Vanik, an obsolete provision put into place nearly 40 years ago to put pressure on communist nations for human-rights abuses and emigration policies. 

The House Ways and Means Committee will discuss the issue at a hearing Wednesday, while the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said he intends to link the Jackson-Vanik repeal with human-rights legislation. 

Russia is the largest economy outside the 153-member World Trade Organization (WTO). It is the world’s ninth largest economy, and about one-fifth of its 142 million people are part of a rapidly growing middle class. 

Estimates show that U.S. exports to Russia could double from $11 billion in 2011 to $22 billion in 2017. 

"Timely Congressional action is the essential next step to ensuring that American workers, farmers and businesses will be competitive in the Russian market," they wrote. 

Russia is expected to vote on its accession, an 18-year effort, on July 4. That would give Congress about 30 days to wrap up work. 

The six are Susan Schwab, Clayton Yeutter, William E. Brock III, Michael Kantor, Carla Hills and Charlene Barshefsky.