Russia makes “slow progress” on WTO bid: U.S. Trade Representative

Moscow is making “slow progress” in joining the World Trade Organisation, according to the U.S. Trade Representative, Susan Schwab. She said the U.S. Congress was not ready to rescind a law limiting trade with Russia.

The 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment was adopted by Washington in 1974. It denied normal trade ties to countries with non-market economies which restricted emigration rights, and  was applied to the Soviet Union. Since then it has been lifted for many former communist states, but is still in force for Russia.

No further than last week, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, said in Moscow that the U.S. Congress would abolish the amendment, but did not specify when.

The Head of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, has voiced his surprise over why there has been such a sudden change in the U.S. position regarding the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

“I do not believe that the issue of the Jackson-Vanik amendment is inside the Trade Representative’s competence, it is definitely an issue for the legislative body of the U.S., the Congress. […] I hope that the statement made by Susan Schwab reflects her personal opinion and will be in some ways corrected by the other high-ranked representatives of the U.S. administration. Our bilateral relations with the U.S. do need such a clarification,” he said.

Meantime, Russian President’s aid Sergey Prikhodko said at a press conference that the situation in Russia had changed greatly since the Jackson-Vanik amendment was adopted.

“From a certain point of view, our macro-economic results as well as the results in other spheres, proved that we are not behind a number of countries that are already members of the WTO. There is a lot to be improved in the instruments of the international trade. As for the amendment, it was adopted in the Soviet period as a response to the limitation of people’s movements, including those to Israel. I doubt that it is valued now. A lot of people visit different countries on different purposes. The responsibility is on those who adopted the amendment and prevent its abolishing. Probably, these people visit Russia very seldom,” he stated.