Clinton Urges Repeal of Soviet-Era Trade Ban to Aid U.S. Farmers

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Congress to overturn a Cold War-era law aimed at punishing the Communist Soviet Union, claiming U.S. farmers and producers are being hurt by the outdated statute.

“We ought to lift it, failing to lift it will put our farmers and manufacturers and our workers at a disadvantage,” Clinton said today in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment in 1974, barring favorable trade between the nations because the Soviet Union wouldn’t let Jewish citizens emigrate. Annual waivers have been allowed since 1993, two years after the Communist government collapsed.

Russia is poised to join the World Trade Organization in May or June, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said this month. President Barack Obama has said he supports Russia becoming a member of the international trade arbiter, which would allow reduced tariffs and greater transparency.

Lawmakers including Representatives Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Democrat, have questioned repealing the law and easing trade with Russia, citing its record on human rights and economic policies.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters today Russia’s attitude toward Syria would “definitely” slow debate on overturning Jackson-Vanik.

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