Sen. Baucus Discusses Trade and WTO Issues with Russian Officials

February 22, 2012. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (SFC), which has jurisdiction over trade issues, traveled to the Russian Federation on February 17-22, 2012, to discuss trade disputes and Russian accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who handles economic and trade issues, and Minister of Economic Development Elvira Nabiullina.

Sen. Baucus stated in a release on February 17 that "Holding Russia to its promises as it enters the WTO and seeking a greater share of the Russian market is a one-way economic benefit for the United States and an absolute no-brainer. This trip will help lead Russia to end its unfair trade practices that hurt American businesses, ranchers and farmers."

Sen. Baucus stated in a release on February 20 that "Russia has to play by the rules, and having Russia in the WTO will help to make that happen ... Russia has made progress opening its economy over the past two decades, and it’s critical this progress continues through its WTO accession.  Russia now needs to end its unscientific barriers to agricultural products like beef, poultry, pork and dairy, and it needs to improve enforcement of intellectual property rights. Establishing permanent normal trade relations with Russia would be a major boost for our exports and will help us address these serious issues in the WTO".

Sen. Baucus stated in a February 21 release "Passing permanent normal trade relations for Russia gives us access to the Russian market without the United States giving up anything in return. We need to capitalize this kind of one-way benefit that helps our economy and our businesses by providing jobs and growth here in the U.S., all at no cost to us whatsoever.”

The WTO invited Russia to join the WTO on December 16, 2011. See, WTO release and formal invitation [MS Word] from WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. The WTO stated in another release that "Russia still has to ratify the agreement and will become a member 30 days after it notifies the WTO. Under the agreement, it should ratify within 220 days (about 22 July 2012)." (Parentheses in original.)

Sen. Baucas's release states that "If by that point Congress has not passed legislation granting Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), the United States will not enjoy the full economic benefits of Russia joining the WTO."

Sen. Baucus, along with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Chairman and ranking Republican on the SFC, and Rep. Dave Camp (D-MI) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), the Chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in October that "We have numerous concerns regarding Russia’s protection of intellectual property rights (IPR)." See, story titled "Congressional Leaders Write USTR Regarding Russia Joining WTO" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,309, November 3, 2011.

The four continued that "Intellectual property is critical to U.S. industry and jobs. We believe it is vitally important for potential members of the WTO to demonstrate that they are not only willing to agree to strong protection of intellectual property, but that they also possess the will and the ability to enforce these rights. Unfortunately, Russia’s standard of IPR protection has fallen short of these standards."

They added that "We are also deeply concerned about recent reports questioning Russia’s commitment to join the Information Technology Agreement (ITA), a commitment the United States negotiated with Russia as part of the bilateral agreement we reached in 2006."

Sen. Baucus also met with Russian agriculture officials. His state of Montana exports beef products. See, February 21 release.