The US Senate voted Thursday to remove Cold
War-era restrictions on trade with Russia and establish permanent
normal trade relations with Moscow.
Congress's upper chamber voted 92-4 to repeal the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment, a 1974 measure that had been designed to punish the Soviet Union for its refusal to allow mass emigration of its citizens, particularly by Jews to Israel.
The US government had been granting waivers to Russia under the law for years. The outdated law had to be repealed to allow normal trade relations after Russia joined the World Trade Organization this year.
"The US has to stop applying the conditions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia in order for our nation to benefit from the lower tariffs available to all other WTO members," US trade representative Ron Kirk and acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank wrote in an opinion piece published Wednesday in the newspaper Politico.
"Only when the WTO agreement applies between the United States and Russia will American businesses be able to compete - on a level playing field according to WTO rules - with businesses from other countries that are already taking advantage of Russia's membership to expand sales and market share there."
Russia had said it would not open its markets to US goods as required under WTO rules until Washington repealed the law.
The measure passed the lower House of Representatives last month, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign the repeal into law.
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