U.S. envoy wants Russia in trade group



Restrictions on trade relations between the United States and Russia will be lifted only after Russia joins the World Trade Organization.

William Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, told the radio station Echo of Moscow that Russia’s accession to the WTO would tip the scales in the U.S. Congress in favor of repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment because U.S. companies would have an interest in seeing the amendment canceled.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment, enacted in 1975, denied favored status to certain countries with non-market economies that restricted emigration rights, specifically the rights of Jewish intelligentsia to leave Russia without paying heavy fines.

Russia has sought WTO membership for 15 years but the country’s human rights record, state control over key energy resources, intellectual property rights and restrictions on the activity of foreign companies have blocked its path.

Burns said he hopes Russia’s WTO entry comes before the end of this year.

President Bush sends a resolution to Congress each year asking to repeal the amendment. Former Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched Jewish community leaders to Washington to lobby for lifting the amendment.

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