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K Street to Congress: Pass Russia Trade Bill This Month

Congress may still be in recess, but the lobbyists at the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and five other groups are not waiting until next week to press their case for swift passage of a trade bill dealing with Russia.

In a letter Wednesday, the business groups urged House and Senate leaders to act on legislation granting Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia as soon as they return from the summer recess.

Calling it the “top trade priority for the business community this year,” the letter asked lawmakers to “give U.S. manufacturers, farmers, and service providers a fair chance to compete and sell more of their goods and services to Russia.”

Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August and is opening its market, business lobbyists said. But the United States “will not have the same WTO rights and economic opportunities until Congress passes Russia PNTR,” according to the letter, which was signed by former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who leads the Business Roundtable, and Chamber President Tom Donohue.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; Robert Vastine, president of the Coalition of Service Industries; Information Technology Industry Council CEO Dean Garfield and Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, also signed the letter.

David Thomas, vice president for trade policy at the Business Roundtable, said the PNTR measure picked up momentum in July.

“Unfortunately, there was not enough time to get it done,” he said. “But we are urging Congressional leaders to harness that momentum and get PNTR done in September.”

Thomas added that there are “142 million people in Russia, many of whom are part of a growing middle class. You have a lot of potential to grow U.S. exports.”