Push continues to normalize trade relations with Russia

House leaders have said they want to take up the bill next month but they have a small window — eight days according to the House schedule — to pass the measure. The National Foreign Trade Council said on Tuesday that the House would hold a vote Sept. 12. 

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he and President Obama are committed to working with Congress to pass the legislation.  

"In order for American manufacturers, workers, service providers, farmers and ranchers to take full advantage of Russia’s WTO membership, Congress must act to terminate Jackson-Vanik and authorize permanent normal trade relations for Russia," Kirk said.  

"As President Obama has said, he is committed to working with Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible, so American businesses will not be at a competitive disadvantage in Russian markets."

Congress needs to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik provision, a U.S. law aimed at encouraging the emigration of Russian Jews with the threat of higher tariffs, to establish normal trade ties.  

Lawmakers plan to add human rights legislation to the trade measure — the so-called "Magnitsky bill," which would punish Russian officials for their involvement in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after reporting government corruption in Russia.

Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called on Congress to act next month. 

“The whole world is ready — except the United States. Until Congress approves [normal trade relations] with Russia, Moscow will be free to deny the United States the full benefits of its reforms," Donohue said. 

Because of congressional inaction, European and Asian companies have a head start on penetrating the Russian market.

For months, business groups have lobbied Congress, trying to make clear that granting normal trade ties exclusively benefits U.S. exports. 

The United States gives up nothing — not a single tariff — in approving it," Donohue said. 

"It’s a true jobs bill and won’t cost taxpayers one penny.”

The President’s Export Council estimates that U.S. exports of goods and services to Russia — which reached an estimated $11 billion in 2011 — could double in five years.

Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations, with the National Association of Manufacturers, joined the call for Congress to pass the legislation and "prevent us from missing out on new export opportunities in the growing Russian market."

"With the unemployment rate at 8.3 percent and the manufacturing sector slowing down, we have to do more to reach new markets and take full advantage of trade opportunities," Newhouse said.

"Congress must act soon or else we risk being left on the sidelines, missing another opportunity to grow our exports.”