The U.S. Senate can give American workers and manufacturers a big boost – and at the same time support free trade and international cooperation – by following the lead of the House of Representatives and passing Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia.
Doing so will help fully open the world’s ninth-largest economy to U.S. exporters. But a failure to act will keep U.S. manufacturers at a significant disadvantage compared to international competitors.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, Russia imported nearly $300 billion in goods last year, but U.S. manufacturers accounted for less than 5 percent of that trade. And the projected growth of the Russian economy in the coming decades means that tremendous opportunities exist for U.S. producers and manufacturers, but only if Congress’s upper chamber allows them.
One year ago, the World Trade Organization invited Russia to become the organization’s 154th member. As a condition of its entry, Russia agreed to undertake a number of economic reforms that would more closely integrate it into the world economy.
However, a Cold War-era U.S. law – the Jackson-Vanik amendment designed to pressure the then Soviet Union about its treatment of émigrés – currently keeps the United States economy from benefiting from a greater trading relationship with Russia.
The Soviet Union no longer exists, and there is no reason to retain the law. Passing PNTR would rescind Jackson-Vanik and place U.S. manufacturers on similar footing as their international competitors.
President Obama – who told Congress last year that “the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home” – has indicated a desire to sign PNTR for Russia once Congress acts.
Let’s hope the Senate heeds that message before wrapping up its business for 2012.