* Vote delayed because of concern about Moscow's support for
* Coalition of 500 companies and business groups backs bill
* Business groups say there is strong bipartisan support
WASHINGTON, Nov 9 The U.S. House of
Representatives is expected to vote next week on a long-delayed
bill to ensure U.S. companies receive all the market-opening
benefits of Russia's recent accession to the World Trade
Organization, congressional aides said on Friday.
The House Rules Committee has scheduled a meeting late
Tuesday afternoon on the legislation to establish "permanent
normal trade relations" (PNTR) with Russia, setting the stage
for a full House vote on the bill by the end of the week, a
House leadership aide said.
The Senate would also have to approve the White House-backed
legislation for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.
Business groups say there is strong bipartisan support for
the measure, but congressional leaders have delayed action all
year in the face of concerns about Moscow's support for Iran and
Syria and about its commitment to democracy and human rights.
On Thursday, a coalition of more than 500 companies and
business organizations urged members of Congress to approve the
"For nearly 80 days now, all of the other 155 members of the
WTO have been able to fully access Russia's market
liberalizations, including new rules related to services,
science-based animal and plant health, and intellectual property
protection - but U.S. businesses cannot," the groups said.
The Business Roundtable welcomed news of the vote, and urged
lawmakers to approve the bill.
"This legislation is needed to give U.S. companies and
workers a fair chance to sell more of their goods and services
to Russia," said BRT President John Engler in a statement.
"Passage of this legislation will help increase U.S. exports and
support American economic growth and jobs."
Russia joined the WTO in late August after 18 years of
on-and-off negotiations. But in order for U.S. companies to
receive all of the market-opening benefits, Congress has to
repeal a Cold-War measure known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
The nearly 40-year-old provisions tied the most favorable
U.S. tariff rates to the rights of Jews in the former Soviet
Union to emigrate. Russia has been in compliance with the
measure for nearly 20 years but Jackson-Vanik remains on the
books, at odds with WTO rules that members provide each other
normal trade relations on an unconditional basis.
Congress is expected to approve new legislation to punish
Russian human rights violators as part of the PNTR bill.