April 24 (Bloomberg) -- An effort by Congress to link a human-rights bill to legislation granting Russia normal trade status may undermine Russian-U.S. relations, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. said.
Proposals for travel and financial restrictions to counter the use of violence to quash anti-corruption efforts in Russia infringe on the nation’s sovereignty, Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said yesterday at a luncheon for journalists at his residence in Washington.
“If anything of the type is adopted, there will be significant reaction,” he said. “In Russia, I cannot predict the way we will react, but I’m certain that it would undermine” the ability to work together “on a number of issues.”
Russian officials want U.S. President Barack Obama to grant permanent normal trade status as the nation prepares to join the Geneva-based World Trade Organization this year. Congress must eliminate a 1974 law that restricted trade with the former Soviet Union, a move backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Washington-based group representing businesses.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, is among lawmakers who have endorsed the human-rights measure, sponsored in the Senate by Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, and in the House by Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat.
“We are a serious country,” Kislyak said. “We do not want to be told what we need to do within the limits of Russian law.” Trade relations and U.S. human-rights concerns about Russia are separate issues, Kislyak said.
The Russian parliament has until July 23 to approve the terms of WTO membership, according to the Congressional Research Service. Russia is the world’s largest economy that isn’t in the WTO. Russia’s membership will boost global economic output by $162 billion annually, according to the World Bank.
A permanent normal-trade relationship initially would be most beneficial to U.S. companies, which would pay lower tariff rates on trade with Russia, Kislyak said.
“We want to see economic relations between the United States and Russia develop in a normal, predictable, reliable fashion” that would benefit both countries, he said. “For us, the Cold War is over.”
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