13 November 2006
Business Community Pushes for PNTR for Russia
Russia's WTO Accession: Status Report and
Overview of the Business Community Effort for
Congressional Approval of PNTR (Preferred Normal Trade Relations) for Russia
by Randi Levinas,
Director of Policy and Programs, U.S.-Russia Business Council
Bilateral negotiations between the United States and Russia are advancing toward conclusion Ц the principal outstanding issues continue to be related to agricultural issues and financial services. Negotiators are hopeful that a conclusion can be reached by the end of October. Much work must still be done in multilateral talks in Geneva, however, where Russia's compliance with WTO rules ranging from customs valuation to pre-shipment inspection to import licensing must be addressed before Russia can accede to the WTO.
Strategy and Action Plan
In Washington earlier this year, the U.S. Russia Business Council (USRBC), working in conjunction with the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, established a Steering Committee of veteran business organizations (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers) and a core group of corporations from across industry sectors active in the Russian market. The captains for the Steering Committee (Bill Lane of Caterpillar, Scott Miller of Procter & Gamble, and Stephen Biegun of Ford Motor Company) are seasoned in leading similar trade battles on Capitol Hill. USRBC serves as the Secretariat for the Coalition and has been maintaining close contact with the Administration and other interested parties to evaluate the specifics of the bilateral agreement. At the same time, the Secretariat has been tracking the activities and statements of Members of Congress regarding Russia - valuable intelligence in gauging Congressional sentiment. The Steering Committee has been meeting regularly as a group, and occasionally with officials in the Executive Branch and key Congressional staff on Capitol Hill from both political parties. An important aspect of the Congressional meetings has been, in many cases, introducing staffers to the commercial opportunities and relationships U.S. firms have developed and foresee in the Russian market. Separately, the Steering Committee has been working to identify champions in the U.S. Congress who can help us organize and lead our advocacy effort. In the coming weeks:
The U.S. business community will launch the "Coalition for U.S.-Russia Trade" Ц an effort that will reach out across the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors.
The Coalition will launch a website to serve as a resource for Members of Congress and their staff.
Coordination will increase with Executive Branch agencies to discuss strategy and anticipated timing for a vote on PNTR for Russia.
Other action items will include building "success stories" of U.S. companies exporting to and/or investing in Russia, and perhaps enlisting the support of U.S. Governors and reviewing the feasibility of Congressional delegation or staff visits to Russia.
Educating Congress on Importance of RussiaТs Graduation from Jackson-Vanik
The business community must actively educate the U.S. Congress regarding the negative implications of delaying Russia's graduation from Jackson-Vanik, because Russia is entitled to withhold from U.S. corporations the benefits of the terms of its accession if the U.S. has not graduated Russia when Russia becomes a WTO member. An organized advocacy effort, complemented by the active leadership of the Administration, will be essential. The focus of the discussion will be on the value of the U.S.-Russian commercial relationship, the merits of a good agreement, the economic possibilities the agreement represents (without over-promising), and perhaps most important, the adverse economic consequences for the United States vis-à-vis Europe and other trade competitors should Russia enter the WTO without the U.S. Congress having granted Russia PNTR.