Congressman (WA-09) announced support this morning for legislation that would allow Russia permanent trade relations with the U.S. along with tougher sanctions for Russians who allegedly violate human rights — a twinning observers say is unpopular with the White House.
Trade relations are currently renewed annually under a section of trade law known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1975, which was put in place at the time to encourage Russia to permit Jewish emigration. With Russian plans moving forward to join the World Trade Organization, the U.S. would be violating WTO rules if current law remains in place, potentially putting U.S. businesses at a disadvantage. The Obama administration said it opposed pairing the two parts of legislation together and only wanted a repeal of Jackson-Vanik.
Smith, a Democrat running for re-election to Congress in the newly-drawn 9th District — which now includes Bellevue and Mercer Island — is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee.
The following is a statement he made after the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee announced they are cosponsoring legislation to terminate Jackson-Vanik status for Russia and Moldova. They expect to mark up the legislation next week.
“While this legislation removes Russia from the Jackson-Vanik amendment, I am pleased the leadership of the Ways and Means Committee has indicated they support including the Magnitsky legislation on human rights before it comes to the floor. The underlying bill promotes rule of law in Russia and addresses significant enforcement concerns, particularly on the protection of intellectual property rights and Russia’s compliance with WTO obligations. If Russia joins the WTO in the next few weeks as expected, passage of this legislation will mean growth for American industry and workers by taking advantage of reduction in barriers to U.S. exports from the beginning.
“While this is a positive step forward for American job growth, I remain particularly concerned about Russian international engagement and the ongoing violence in Syria. Russia must continue to work diligenty with the international community to arrive at an acceptable solution to the humanitarian crisis.”