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Clinton hopes US to end Russia trade curbs

09 september 2012, 15:06
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced hope Saturday that the US Congress would act this month to end Cold War-era trade restrictions on Russia but also raised concerns on human rights, AFP reports.

The so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974 tied US commerce with the then Soviet Union to human rights, depriving normal trading relations in a bid to pressure Moscow to allow emigration of its Jewish community.

President Barack Obama's administration has pushed for the repeal of the measure as it goes against the rules of the World Trade Organisation, which Russia entered last month with support of the United States.

Clinton said that Russia's WTO membership "is good for Russia, it's good for America and it's good for the global economy", and said that repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment would "make sure our companies get to compete".

"We hope that the Congress will act on this important piece of legislation this month," Clinton said in a speech to an Asia-Pacific summit in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.

While Jewish emigration is no longer a major issue, a number of US lawmakers have voiced concern about Russia's human rights record as well as other policies, including its military sales to war-ravaged Syria's regime.

Lawmakers have pushed for the replacement of Jackson-Vanik with a new law that would deny visas and freeze assets of Russian officials involved in the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison.

Magnitsky, who was jailed after charging financial wrongdoing by government officials, allegedly died of torture and untreated medical conditions.

A senior State Department official said that Clinton "raised our ongoing concerns about human rights in Russia" during talks in Vladivostok with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The official declined to give more details about the discussion but said that Clinton addressed "recent sentences" and new Russian laws seen as restricting freedom of speech and the activities of non-governmental groups.

The United States has criticised Russia for jailing the dissident punk rock group Pussy Riot over a performance in a Moscow church.

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