Russia hits WTO; Congress hits Russia?


So while everyone has been preoccupied with the is-it-or-isn’t-it hurricane blowing wind at the Gulf Coast (Soledad O’Brien was so terrified of the effects that she went without makeup for her morning report from New Orleans), long-time friend of the United States and its interests, reliable trade partner and human rights paragon Russia has joined the WTO. Because, why wouldn’t the WTO allow in a country who’s primary objective is bringing back a socialist economy based on selling twenty-year old arms to developing nations.

If there’s one thing the world market needs to aid in it’s recover is Russia.

To be fair, Russia considers itself “newly liberalized” and if someone is willing to abide by the WTO’s rules and submit to it’s authority, perhaps we should wait and see whether it ends up being slightly better for them than we expect it to be, considering their leadership. But there’s another problem. Russia hasn’t exactly been a “world trade partner,” and its record on human rights violations.

The Obama administration left us in a lurch, though, because they really didn’t bother to address any of this before assenting the WTO, and as such, missed their shot at actually doing anything to correct the problem (or, since WTO membership requires a unanimous vote, they could have actually prevented Russia from joining until they addressed their human rights abuses). Of all people in the world, Congress might just have an answer: the Magnitsky Act. The Act would address Russia’s human rights violations while still letting themact like we’re cool with them being a trade partner. The US Chamber is trying to make the argument:

“Joining the WTO will require Moscow to further open its market to imports, safeguard intellectual property, and strengthen the rule of law. But if Congress fails to act before the August recess, Russia will be free to deny U.S. workers, farmers, and companies the full benefits of its market-opening reforms. America risks being left behind again as European and Asian companies build on their head start in the world’s ninth largest market.”

And then there’s Heritage.

“Replacing Jackson—Vanik with the Magnitsky Act would provide a working system to pin point and punish gross violators of human rights, while allowing U.S. firms to compete equally for business in Russia…. Extending PNTR to Russia would also help promote transparency, property rights, and the rule of law.”

Since Obama has left us in such a lurch, it’s worth a shot. Even if it is Russia. I think. Maybe.

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