Congress must act to secure trade with Russia
Billings Gazette Opinion, By Webb Brown
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012
Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012
Great Falls Tribune and Billings Gazette
Make no mistake - the U.S. economy still is recovering and in need of a boost. Even in Montana, which has weathered the storm better than most states, unemployment jumped from 6.1 to 6.3 percent last month.
Given the delicate state of recovery, America simply can't afford to let opportunities to grow the economy pass us by. But that's exactly what could happen if Congress fails to establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia this summer.
Last year, Montana exported $1.8 million in merchandise to Russia, which is the ninth-largest economy in the world. In 2010, our state exported $6 million worth of cattle alone to that country. In 2006, total exports from Montana to Russia were only $170,000.
Trade with Russia has the potential to continue its healthy rate of expansion in the years ahead. That's because - after 18 years of negotiations - Russia will become a full member of the World Trade Organization later this summer. In order to join the WTO, Russia has agreed to open its markets, reduce tariffs on agricultural and manufactured goods, and beef up intellectual property protections.
But Montana - and the rest of the United States - will not automatically benefit from Russia's entry into the WTO. Congress first must vote to establish PNTR with the country. If that doesn't happen, Russia won't have to abide by WTO rules when dealing with American businesses, and the United States would have no recourse under the WTO. Montana, and the U.S., could see other countries eat into our current trade growth.
Establishing PNTR with Russia would require the United States to close the book on a Cold War-legacy trade policy, known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974.
If this outdated policy remains in place, the U.S. will forfeit our WTO rights to the benefits of Russia's market- opening reforms.
Taking the necessary steps to open up trade with Russia should be a top priority for Congress and the President. There should be broad, bipartisan agreement that establishing PNTR with Russia and repealing Jackson-Vanik is good for the American economy.
Fortunately, Montana's U.S. Senator Max Baucus understands this important issue. For example, at a congressional hearing late last month, Sen. Baucus called Russia's WTO entry "a one-sided deal in America's favor, but only if we act." And in late June, he helped introduce bipartisan legislation to normalize trade relations with Russia.
It's time for America to establish PNTR with Russia. It's good policy for Montana and an essential move for our economy.
Webb Brown is the president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
Please use the following for schedule requests:
Contact the DC office at:
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2651 (Office)
(202) 224-9412 (Fax)
Max is pleased to have eight offices throughout Montana to serve you better.
222 N 32nd St Ste 100
Billings, MT 59101
220 W Lamme Ste 1D
Bozeman, MT 59715
245 E Park St LL E
Butte, MT 59701
122 W Towne St
Glendive, MT 59330
113 3rd St N
Great Falls, MT 59401
30 W 14th St Ste 206
Helena, MT 59601
8 3rd St E
Kalispell, MT 59901
280 E Front St Ste 100
Missoula, MT 59802
Official Website of Max Baucus