Obama says will talk with Congress on Russian trade curbs

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US President Barack Obama said Saturday that Russia's pending entry into the WTO meant it was time for him to consult with Congress on ending trade restrictions on Moscow dating from the Cold War.

In a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Hawaii, Obama committed to lifting the Jackson-Vanik amendment which restricts trade privileges to nations that limited freedom of human rights and emigration.

Moscow cleared its most significant hurdle for accession just Wednesday when it finally clinched a customs deal with Georgia, which was able to veto any accession bid by virtue of its membership to the trade body.

Russia applied to join the trade body in 1993 but talks dragged on and its brief war with Georgia in 2008 further delayed the bid.

No other country has had to barter so long before being granted entry. China was the previous record holder with 15 years of negotiations for membership.

Obama said last week that Russia's membership of the World Trade Organization would generate more exports for American manufacturers and farmers, which in turn will support well-paying jobs in the United States."

Russia has long called for the lifting of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was framed to put pressure on the former Soviet Union in 1974 and has come to symbolize still festering antagonism between the Kremlin and Washington.

The legislation targeted the Soviet Union for its persecution of Jews who wanted to emigrate, but has been used in recent years by Congress as a vehicle to express discontent at Russian foreign, security or human rights policy.

The amendment denies most favored nation status and low import and tariff privileges to nations that are impacted.

© 2011 AFP

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