Matthew Edwards is Director, and Christine Lucyk is Senior Policy Advisor, in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
As 2012 drew to a close, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined President Obama, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, members of Congress, and representatives of the business community at the White House to mark a historic event in U.S.-Russia economic relations – the signing of legislation authorizing the President to establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia. Calling the legislation a “win-win for American businesses and workers,” Blank hailed the legislation as a crucial step to ensure that U.S. businesses can compete on a level playing field and enjoy in full measure the increased access to Russia’s growing market which Russia extended through its agreement to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).
These are benefits that the U.S. Government, in consultation with Congress and American manufacturers, farmers and service-providers as well as fellow with WTO members, worked hard to achieve, through intensive negotiations, and with bipartisan support by successive U.S. administrations, culminating in Russia’s accession to the WTO in August 2012.
What does this mean for the future? For context, as one of the world’s larger emerging markets, Russia has been playing a growing role in U.S. trade and investment, in particular as a market for U.S. goods. In 2012, American exports to Russia rose approximately 25 percent over 2011’s level, growing more than five times as fast as U.S. exports to the world as a whole. More exports means support for more American jobs.
U.S. exporters stand to benefit further from greater and more predictable market access, as tariffs fall in line with Russia’s commitments to reduce and bind tariffs on many industrial products. In the past, Russia was able to increase tariffs without limit. As a result of its WTO commitments, Russia’s tariffs will be bound at an average rate of about seven percent. U.S. exports in key sectors like information technology, civil aircraft, chemicals, agricultural products and many types of capital goods and equipment will see significant tariff benefits.
In the past, U.S. service providers were excluded from many sectors or faced barriers in those sectors where they were allowed to operate. Russia’s market access and national treatment commitments provide new opportunities in telecommunications, computer services, express delivery, distribution, financial services and audio-visual services.
Russia’s commitments on non-tariff measures, including obligations to abide by WTO rules on technical barriers to trade, subsidies, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, will limit Russia’s ability to take certain kinds of arbitrary actions, such as SPS and other measures that have restricted U.S. exports of meat and poultry, spirits, and dairy products.
Russia’s trade environment also should continue to benefit over time from commitments in the area of transparency. U.S. exporters have in the past come up against laws and regulations adopted without adequate opportunity for input from interested parties or without reliable information about regulations on trade in a given product or industry. Under the WTO, Russia is obligated to apply WTO rules on transparency, including formal establishment of notice and comment procedures for proposed measures affecting trade in goods, services and intellectual property and requirements to provide decisions in writing and new rights of appeal.
As the volume and breadth of U.S.-Russia trade grows, establishing PNTR has provided the U.S. with more tools and the leverage to hold Russia accountable for the obligations it has undertaken, and to defend U.S. economic interests in Russia’s market. In the coming months, the International Trade Administration plans to step up our outreach to advise U.S. industry of new opportunities in Russia’s market – as well as its remaining challenges. These challenges still can be considerable, as indicated in the World Bank’s most recent “Doing Business” rankings, where despite jumping eight places in the rankings, Russia placed 112th out of 185 economies surveyed.
The Commerce Department will be working under the U.S.-Russia Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group (part of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission) to continue to bring U.S. business interests to the fore in discussions with our Russian counterparts on ways to further expand this growing trade relationship in ways that benefit U.S. industry and U.S. workers.