New era in Russia-US trade relations: Obama scraps Jackson-Vanik amendment

US President Barack Obama.(AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)
President Obama has abolished the Jackson-Vanik amendment thus awarding Russia “permanent normal trade relations” status, which opens a new era in trade relations between the two countries.

­“The Russian Federation has been found to be in full compliance with the freedom of emigration requirement,” Obama proclaimed, adding that the articles of the 1974 law were no longer applicable to Russia.

Jackson-Vanik affects trade by denying most favoured trading nation status to countries which unlawfully restrict emigration and violate other human rights. In particular it results in higher tariffs imposed on some goods and services and an outright ban on involvement in specific economic sectors.

The decision now allows US business to enjoy all the benefits of trade with Russia as a full member of the World Trade Organization. 

After Russia’s accession to the trade body, following eighteen years of negotiations, Washington is keen for US companies to take greater advantage of Russia’s growing market.

Russia will now provide more access to its more than 140 million consumers and US firms can now benefit from lower import tariffs, intellectual property protection and greater legal transparency.

American economists estimate that US exports of goods and services could double in five years to $22 billion.

However, hopes of improved trade have been simultaneously undermined as Obama signed the so-called Magnitsky act into law. This ban certain Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses from entering the US as well as imposes financial sanctions on them. This has caused a diplomatic storm between Moscow and Washington.

The Russian head of state said of the Magnitsky act that it “certainly poisons our relationship,” adding that the rhetoric coming from Washington following its introduction was unacceptable.

“If we are slapped, we must respond, or otherwise we’ll be constantly slapped,” Putin said, adding that the US was being hypocritical in its singling out of Russia. “They are up to their necks in certain substances themselves,” President Putin told the press on Thursday.

Russia is expected to respond with the Dima Yakovlev bill, which aims to ban US citizens from adopting Russian children, following the deaths of a number of kids over the years. The legislation includes additional amendments suggesting that a similar ban would be imposed on any other foreign country which supports the Magnitsky Act.