Washington: Ignoring objections from Moscow, US President Barack Obama Friday signed into law a legislation that sanctions people accused of gross human rights violations in Russia, linking this to normal trade relations with the country.
The Magnitsky Act requires the US government to draw a list of Russian officials allegedly complicit in rights abuses, who will then be denied US visas and their US assets would be frozen. An angry Russia sees this as meddling into its internal affairs.
"The President signed a bill that repealed the Jackson-Vanik legislation, which is something that both this President and Russia had sought," White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters at his daily news conference.
Obama, he said, has commended the House and Senate for working on a bipartisan basis to pass legislation, to end the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia and Moldova, allowing him to extend permanent normal trade relations to both countries.
"The legislation ensures that American businesses and workers are able to take full advantage of WTO rules and market access commitments that the United States worked so hard to negotiate," he said.
"The US is also one step closer to realising job-creating opportunities and leveling the playing field for American workers, farmers, ranchers and service providers. The President`s administration will continue to work with Congress and our partners to support those seeking a free and democratic future for Russia and promote the rule of law and respect for human rights around the world," Carney said.
Acting Commerce Secretary, Rebecca Blank, said the law is critical to allowing US firms take full advantage of Russia`s recent accession into the World Trade Organisation.
US exports to Russia rose 40 per cent in 2011, and have more than doubled over the past decade.
"Establishing Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Moldova is a critical step to ensuring that our businesses are able to compete on a level playing field and that they enjoy increased access to these growing markets. This legislation is a win-win for American businesses and workers," Blank said.
US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, said this will allow the US to apply the WTO agreement to Russia, offering new, job-supporting trade opportunities for US businesses and workers and allowing the United States to address trade disputes with Russia in the WTO system, if necessary.
"The United States strongly supported Russia`s accession to the WTO, because it is in the interest of our exporters and the Americans they employ to bring Russia more fully into the global trading system," Kirk said.
"With signing of this legislation, American businesses and workers are closer to enjoying the full economic benefits of Russia`s WTO commitments," he added.