WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups praised the U.S. Senate for graduating Russia and Moldova out of Jackson-Vanik provisions that restricted trade.
A joint statement from NCSJ and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations "applauded" the Senate for the 92-4 vote Thursday to approve the removal of the two countries from the trade restrictions.
"In the 1970s, NCSJ and the Conference of Presidents helped to draft and fought for passage of Jackson-Vanik, an amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 that penalizes countries that restrict emigration," the release said. "The amendment’s adoption in 1974 was a critical tool in pressuring the Soviet Union to allow Jews to escape Communist oppression by emigrating, primarily to Israel and the United States. NCSJ, the Conference of Presidents and other major Jewish organizations support graduation because Russia and Moldova have a 20-year record of allowing unrestricted emigration abroad."
The U.S. House of Representatives passed identical legislation last month. President Obama pledged Thursday to sign the legislation.
The U.S. business community had lobbied for Russia’s removal from Jackson-Vanik, in part because it inhibited trade with one of the world’s biggest economies, but also because Russia’s recent ascension to the World Trade Organization would allow it to pursue redress against countries that blocked trade.
Provisions in the new legislation allow the United States to isolate and seize the funds of individual Russians suspected of human rights abuses.
"My administration will continue to work with Congress and our partners to support those seeking a free and democratic future for Russia and promote the rule of law and respect for human rights around the world," Obama said in his statement.
NCSJ, now known as Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, was previously known as the National Council on Soviet Jewry.