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Senate Votes To Normalize Trade With Russia

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The U.S. Senate has voted to lift trade restrictions on Russia that date back to the Cold-War era and normalize trade relations with the country.

Lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that would establish permanent normal trade relations, but also would impose sanctions on Russian human-rights violators.

President Barack Obama has pledged to sign the measure, which cleared the House of Representatives, last month.

Russia has expressed anger over the provision imposing sanctions on officials accused of committing human-rights violations. The penalties could include denying visas and freezing U.S. bank assets of accused violators.

Moscow warned the provision would harm diplomatic relations with Washington.

The provision is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing a massive tax fraud scheme. It overturns a law passed in 1974, known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment, that linked favorable U.S. tariffs on Russian goods to the right of Jews in the Soviet Union to emigrate.

Influential business groups have urged lawmakers to normalize trade relations since Russia’s formal entry into the World Trade Organization back in August, which commits it to lowering tariffs and removing other trade barriers. Economists are predicting that U.S. exports to Russia will double in five years if the restrictions are lifted.

The groups say the U.S. will fall behind other nations who have already formalized trade relations with Russia, and will not be able to resolve any trade disputes at the WTO with the world’s ninth-largest economy.



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