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US Senate Moves to Boost Trade with Russia

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, accompanied by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 26, 2012
WASHINGTON The U.S. Senate Finance Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would give Russian goods the same low-tariffs as exports from other nations, ending restrictions that were put in place during the Cold War.

Supporters say the measure could help double the $9 billion annual trade between the two former enemies.

The change came over the objections of some senators who said Washington should not grant permanent normal trade relations to Moscow until it stops sending weapons to Syria, where a conflict has killed thousands of people.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, said Congress should not "squander" a chance to send a strong message to Moscow.

But Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, disagreed, saying slowing trade with Russia would not change that nation's actions but would hurt U.S. exporters.

For the bill to become law, it must still pass the full Senate, and be approved by the House of Representatives and President Barack Obama.

Earlier, Russia's parliament gave final legislative approval to the agreement that obligates Russia to cap some tariffs and take other actions in return for being allowed to join the World Trade Organization.

The measure must still be signed by President Vladimir Putin.

Russia was the last of the world's major economies outside the WTO before the 153-member group officially accepted the country in December.

WTO supporters say it helps the economies of individual nations by boosting trade.

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