The U.S. urged Russia not to retaliate over legislation targeting Russian officials who violate human rights after a senior lawmaker in Moscow said American firms could face reprisals.
“I’ve heard from several Russian counterparts their concern about the Magnitsky legislation,” Miriam Sapiro, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, said in an interview today in St. Petersburg. “I certainly hope that if Magnitsky were to pass, that there would not be such measures.”
The Russian government could adopt a harsher stance toward U.S. investment projects, the Moscow-based newspaper Kommersant reported June 16, citing Alexei Pushkov, foreign-affairs committee head in the lower house of parliament. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned of unspecified retaliation if the so-called Magnitsky bill becomes law.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 7 approved legislation that would impose U.S. travel and financial curbs on any official abusing human rights in Russia, including 60 people suspected of involvement in the death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail in 2009. Congress will vote on the measure at a later date.
The U.S. administration will no longer seek to prevent Congress from passing the bill, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said June 7 in Moscow.
The Obama administration is seeking to repeal trade restrictions with Russia to prevent U.S. companies from forfeiting tariff reductions once Russian membership of the World Trade Organization takes effect later this year. A bipartisan group of senators has made a repeal of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment conditional on imposing sanctions on Russian officials for human-rights violations.
Sapiro, who met Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov while attending the St. Petersburg international economic forum today, said it’s urgent that the Jackson-Vanik amendment is removed.
“Otherwise, when Russia is set to join the World Trade Organization in just a few weeks, U.S. companies and workers will be at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors in Asia, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere,” she said.
Russia barred 11 serving and former U.S. administration officials for human rights abuses at facilities including Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in retaliation for the American move to bar an identical number of Russian officials last year over the Magnitsky case. The Kremlin said earlier this month that any additional U.S. visa bans would meet with a symmetrical response.
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