* Push to pass bill before August recess
* Russia's move to WTO expected to double US exports
* Human rights concerns
(Adds USTR statement, paragraphs 6-7)
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, July 19 The top Republican and
Democrat on the House of Representatives Ways and Means
Committee said on Thursday they reached a deal to move forward
on Russian trade legislation, including human rights provisions
opposed by Moscow.
"I am pleased that we were able to gain bipartisan support
for this important legislation that supports U.S. jobs and
exports, and I look forward to marking it up next week,"
Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Republican, said in a statement
with Democratic Representative Sander Levin.
Business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, want
Congress to pass the trade legislation before its August recess
to make sure U.S. companies share in the benefits of Russia's
upcoming entry in the World Trade Organization.
Russia is the largest economy still outside the WTO and its
entry is expected to help double U.S. exports to that country to
about $19 billion annually over the next five years.
Representatives Kevin Brady and Jim McDermott, the top
Republican and Democrat on the Ways and Means trade
subcommittee, said they were joining Camp and Levin on the bill
to grant "permanent normal trade relations," or PNTR, with
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said more exports to
Russia would mean more American jobs.
"We look forward to working with Congress to put a final
bill on the president's desk as soon as possible," Kirk said in
The bill is similar to one approved unanimously on
Wednesday by the Senate Finance Committee and which contains a
number of provisions to put pressure on the U.S. Trade
Representative's Office to ensure Russia honors its WTO
commitments, they said.
"The bill we are introducing today includes important
additional measures relating to the enforcement of key
provisions, ranging from the protection of intellectual property
rights, to barriers to U.S. exports, and Russia's compliance
with its WTO commitments," Levin said.
It would exclude certain human rights provisions in the
Finance Committee package because that is outside the
jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee.
But the four lawmakers said they would push for the
"Magnitsky bill" to be added by House leaders to the PNTR
package before it goes to the floor for a vote.
"As a long-time supporter of the Magnitsky legislation, I am
advocating that it be paired with PNTR before a House vote,"
Russia is expected to join the World Trade Organization in
August, 18 years after it first asked for membership, putting
pressure on Congress to lift a Cold War-provision known as the
Jackson-Vanik amendment, which is inconsistent with WTO rules.
If Congress does not act to terminate the provision and
grant PNTR, Russia could deny U.S. exporters some of the
market-opening concessions it made to join the WTO, and the
United States would not be able to challenge those actions
through the WTO's dispute settlement system.
Concern about Russia's commitment to human rights, democracy
and the rule of law is propelling the Magnitsky bill, named
after a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in 2009 after a
year in Russian jails.
It would bar Russia officials guilty of human rights
violations from traveling to the United States and freeze assets
they hold in U.S. banks.
The White House had pushed for a bill free of human rights
provisions to terminate Jackson-Vanik and establish "permanent
normal trade relations" with Moscow.
But it appears resigned to the bill passed by the Senate
Finance Committee, which included the Magnitsky provisions.
"Passage of this bill through the House and full Senate will
enable the president to extend Permanent Normal Trade Relations
to Russia and allow American businesses, ranchers, farmers, and
workers receive the full benefit of Russia's WTO commitment,"
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bell; Editing by Vicki Allen
and Peter Cooney)