Administration officials have warned that failing to end Jackson-Vanik’s applicability to Russia would keep U.S. businesses from reaping the full benefits of its WTO membership. Russia’s $2.2 trillion-a-year economy is the world’s seventh largest.
Given the collapse of Russian democracy, though, some administration officials - including Michael McFaul, ambassador-designate to Russia - have conceded the need for a human rights replacement to Jackson-Vanik.
“Let’s have another act,” Mr. McFaul said in April. “Call it the Jackson-Vanik Act of 2011.”
But asked about the comment for the record by Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, Mr. McFaul retreated to administration talking points, saying that Jackson-Vanik had “served its historic purpose by helping thousands of Jews emigrate from the Soviet Union” and vowing that the U.S. would continue funding Russian civil-society groups and raising human-rights concerns with Russian officials.
Pavel Khodorkovksy - son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil magnate who bankrolled the Russian opposition before being jailed in 2003 - told The Times that he supports gradually releasing Russia from Jackson-Vanik, but only if the Magnitsky Act is passed.
He said the Russian opposition is closely monitoring the bill’s fate.
“It’s viewed probably as one of the only things right now that can push the country in the right direction from the outside because there are very few real levers that could be used by foreign governments to impact what’s happening in Russia today,” Mr. Khodorkovksy said, lamenting that “human-rights considerations have been pushed aside” since the reset.
Maneuvering over Jackson-Vanik and Magnitsky comes amid Russia’s ongoing conflict with neighboring Georgia about the latter’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia ended its hold on Russia’s accession Nov. 10, after the sides agreed to a Swiss-mediated pact providing for international monitors to track the flow of goods between Russia and the two regions.
“We’re happy we got this agreement because [international monitoring] is something we have been pressing for,” he said. “It’s important that Russia join the WTO because all trade disputes and trade-related issues we have can now be addressed in the WTO dispute-resolution mechanism.”
Russia will be invited to become the WTO’s 154th member at the body’s ministerial meeting that begins in Geneva on Dec. 15. Russia’s membership will become official 30 days after ratification by its parliament, which is likely to come early next year.