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U.S. Senate panel approves trade bill with Russia

(Xinhua)

10:17, July 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, July 18 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday advanced a measure to normalize trade relations with Russia for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union, which could lead to a doubling of U.S. exports.

With the measure passed in the panel unanimously, Senate lawmakers lift Cold War trade restrictions and establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia. On the House side, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said he was committed to introducing a Russia trade bill.

Russia is one of very few countries that still do not have normal trade status with the United States. Although Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Dec. 16, 2011, only countries that have permanent normal trade relations can take advantage of the lower trade barriers that come with WTO membership.

The bipartisan support also reflected the need of U.S. business and farm groups, who saw the bill as a jobs creator and a boost to the sluggish economy. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said U. S. exports to Russia could double in five years from the current 9 billion dollars a year if trade relations were normalized.

However, Senators insisted on the human rights sanctions in the bill, which obviously did no good to improve the already poor relations between the two old rivals. The sanctions in the measure were built on the existing moves of the U.S. State Department, which required those responsible for human rights violations be denied visas and have their assets frozen, as Russia President Putin moved against protesters and others hostile to his rule.

Some observers said the sanctions provoked deep anger in Moscow at a time when President Obama had been seeking consensus with Putin in resolving the issue in Syria.

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