The House Ways & Means Committee has, by voice vote, backed a bill lifting the ban on trade with Russia under a 1974 law (aka the Jackson-Vanick amendment), a step necessary under WTO rules before President Barack Obama’s administration grants Russia permanent normal trade status. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved its version of the bill on 18 July.
As the legacy of the Cold War standoff between the US and the USSR, Jackson-Vanick has for two decades been an embarrassment from the standpoint of the Russian leadership. Aside from the direct economic benefit of Russia gaining access to advanced capital goods and technologies (US lobbyists pushing the legislation estimate that, thanks to Russia’s WTO accession, US exports to Russia could nearly triple to USD 23bn), repealing the amendment is a welcome friendly gesture, with relations between Moscow and Washington having cooled substantially of late. One fly in the ointment is that the Senate’s version of the bill also includes the so-called ‘Magnitsky List’ (restrictions on US travel and financial transactions for human-rights violators). The House is working on including similar legislation into its bill, as this one way of garnering support on the floor. Thus, overall the immediate result for the sentiment may be undermined.