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8 Jul, 2009 17:53

Russia, the hurdle, and the WTO

Russia and the U.S. currently have a trade turnover of $36 billion. A 35 year old U.S. law aimed at Soviet emigration policy is still holding back that potential, along with the latest twist in Russia's WTO bid.

Russia's Minister of Economic development has stressed that broader possibilities exist for mutual foreign investment. But one of the biggest challenges holding that back is the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment – passed by the U.S. Congress to restrict trade with Communist states restricting emigration.

That's no longer an issue, but today, Gary Locke, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, says Moscow's restrictions on meat imports are holding back the willingness of Congress to repeal Jackson-Vanik .

"President Obama has made it very clear that there might not be enough support in Congress at this time to remove Jackson-Vanik, as it applies to Russia, unless Russia were to look at some of the trade issues and trade barriers."

Michael White, the vice chairman of PepsiCo International says cancelling Jackson-Vanik would be positive for overall U.S. relations and trade.

"I think our trade is way too low, it's way under developed, there's an enormous opportunity for us. What's critical is for America to reform its trade laws, particularly the Jackson Amendment, and for Russia to continue to work hard on joining the WTO."

Russia has been trying to join the trade body for 16 years. The U.S. has said it supports the country's unilateral accession bid – but Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says Russia's plans to join in a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan are "unworkable and unprecedented."