Russia Says Human Rights Clause Makes U.S. Trade Bill ‘Absurd’

Russia said the U.S. Senate’s passage of a bill giving the country most-favored nation trading status was a “performance in the theater of the absurd” because the measure needlessly punishes alleged human-rights violators.

The bill repealing Cold War-era trade restrictions passed by a 92-4 vote and now goes to President Barack Obama for signing. The measure, approved by the House last month, includes provisions that impose travel and financial sanctions on Russians the U.S. deems responsible for crimes including murder and torture.

The legislation “will affect perspectives of bilateral ties quite negatively,” according to a translated version of a statement posted on the website of Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Companies including Boeing Co., General Electric Co. and Caterpillar Inc. say the measure will ensure that American businesses will be able to secure lower tariffs and have stronger legal rights when dealing with Russia, which joined the World Trade Organization in August.

U.S. lawmakers including Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, supported the bill on the condition that it contain the human-rights provision, long opposed by Russian officials.

“It is either that people in Washington forgot which year it is now and think that the ’Cold War’ has not ended, or the senators are carried away by self-PR and ignore the obvious thing,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement. Nations already have the authority to block certain individuals from entering their territory, without the need for special legislation, it said.

The Obama administration supports the bill.

“As American companies have greater access to the Russian market, U.S. exports are expected to increase, and more U.S. exports mean more American jobs,” Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said today in a statement.

The bill is H.R. 6156.

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