Kirk presses for congressional action on Russia trade bill

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to mark up its legislation on Thursday, Kirk said, although the panel has yet to announce the details. 

The Senate Finance Committee approved a measure last week that combines the repeal language with human rights legislation that would punish Russian officials involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after reporting government corruption. 

Ways and Means is expected to move a repeal bill, which mirrors the Senate measure, through the panel then link it with the human rights legislation in the House Rules Committee before sending the measure to the floor. 

The House and Senate need to pass the measure before the August recess for U.S. businesses to gain all of the benefits from increased trade.

"As we continue to work with Congress, our priority is to put legislation on the president’s desk for signature as soon as possible," Kirk said. 

Russia formally informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Monday that President Vladimir Putin had signed the accession package and the nation is set to become the 156th member of the trade group on Aug. 22, about 18 years after Moscow first started the quest for membership. 

"And you continue to play a critical role as we work together to obtain congressional action on a bill that will ensure the WTO agreement applies between the United States and Russia," Kirk told the group. 

Normalizing trade relations between the United States and Russia will help protect U.S. intellectual property and ensure that U.S. exporters of agricultural products, such as soybeans, corn, pork, poultry, and dairy, benefit from Russia’s commitment to base its sanitary and phytosanitary measures on international standards.  

The bill also is expected to help support U.S. manufacturers with increased transparency of mandatory and voluntary standards and with reductions other non-tariff barriers to trade along iwth U.S. service providers and information technology firms as Russia opens its markets. 

The measure also will provide the United States with more trade enforcement tools to hold Russia accountable for its WTO commitments.