Russian trade bill heads to Obama

By National Association of Wheat Growers

The Senate voted 92 to 4 on Thursday to establish permanent normal trading relations (PNTR) with Russia. A similar bill was approved by the House of Representatives in November, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure shortly.

Approving PNTR status for Russia will allow U.S. exporters to take full advantage of Russia’s new membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), which became official in August after a 19-year negotiation process.

The WTO mandates all countries offer permanent trading relations to other members. Previously, the United States had granted Russia normal trading relations status on an annual basis since the early 1990s.

Russia’s WTO accession is expected to provide the U.S. and other WTO members improved trade access and stronger enforcement mechanisms for the country’s commitments to domestic supports, export subsidies and state trading enterprise disciplines.

While some U.S. agricultural sectors will gain new exports from the trade status changes, Russia does not import U.S. wheat, so the country’s membership will benefit U.S. wheat producers primarily by providing new checks on Russian export and domestic support policies. Both NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, the industry’s export market development organization, support PNTR for Russia.

The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade issues, has said that U.S. exports to Russia total $9 billion a year and are expected to double within five years due to the changed trading status. Russia is the world’s seventh-largest economy.

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