William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
September 6, 2012

Thank you. It’s an honor to be here with Under Secretary Sanchez at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s an honor to be introduced by Susan Schwab, for whose service as U.S. Trade Representative I have great admiration, and who did so much during her tenure to advance American economic interests in Russia. And it’s an honor to speak to you briefly today about an issue that matters to all of us -- the economic and strategic argument for extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Russia.

I have spent a good deal of my checkered diplomatic career helping Administrations of both parties navigate the complexities of the U.S.-Russia relationship. I’ve seen moments of great promise in that relationship, as well as periods of sharp and sometimes abiding differences. Through it all, I’ve tried my best to keep focused on what’s at stake for America’s own interests, as well as for Russia’s long-term evolution. That sense of focus is not always easy to sustain amidst the push and pull of events in both our countries, and in the world around us, but it’s essential to understanding the importance of extending PNTR to Russia today.

This afternoon’s meeting is well-timed. Tomorrow night, Secretary Clinton will touch down in Vladivostok for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit where liberalizing trade is expected to be high on the agenda. This is the first time Russia has hosted APEC. But more importantly, Russia is convening this gathering as the newest member of another group: the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Russia’s membership in the WTO is a major milestone, reflecting the strong, persistent support of the last three U.S. Administrations. However, until Congress acts to extend PNTR to Russia, our businesses will be deprived of an unprecedented opportunity to boost trade with one of the largest and fastest growing markets in the world.

A vote to extend PNTR is not a favor to Russia. It is a vote to create and sustain jobs in the United States. PNTR legislation has attracted bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and from leaders of states across the country. They have lined up to make clear that PNTR is a vital opportunity to keep our companies competitive and help create new, high-quality American jobs. Continuing to deny PNTR for Russia at this stage only hurts American companies and workers, who are facing fierce economic competition—in more sectors and from more places than ever before.

At a time when our leadership in the world depends on shoring up our economy at home, the potential upside to opening the Russian market to U.S. goods and services is considerable. Russia today is the 7th largest economy in the world, but only our 20th largest trading partner. Yet, for many U.S. states, exports to Russia are growing faster than exports to the rest of the world; in April alone, U.S. goods exports to Russia reached $1 billion, a new record level. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that at least 5,000 American jobs are supported for every $1 billion of U.S. exports.

But until the WTO Agreement applies between the United States and Russia, America’s competitors will enjoy more liberal treatment for exports of goods and services and stronger commitments on protection of intellectual property rights--American companies will not. Until the WTO Agreement applies between us, Russia will be under no obligation to apply science based food safety standards to U.S. agricultural exports, leaving poultry and beef producers in Delaware, Arkansas, and Montana vulnerable. And until the WTO Agreement applies between us, we will not have the same recourse as our competitors to the WTO’s binding dispute resolution mechanism to ensure that Russia complies with its WTO commitments.

Failing to lift Jackson-Vanik and extend PNTR will not penalize Russia, nor will it provide an effective lever to change the Russian Government’s behavior. However, extending PNTR is a smart strategic investment that over the long term can help create a better, more predictable partner for the United States and contribute to Russian efforts to build a more transparent and accountable political and economic system.

Russia today is very much at a crossroads. As demonstrations across Russia over the last nine months have reminded us, a growing number of Russians both in and out of government want to see their country develop into a modern state with a diverse and competitive economy. But those determined Russians, many from the emerging middle class, are not only driven by a thirst for economic prosperity, but for a voice in how decisions are made in their society—for the predictability and accountability that come with rule of law.

While we do not expect change to occur overnight, this is a trend-line that is increasing in pace--and one we should support. Extending PNTR and thereby increasing U.S. trade with Russia can strengthen the hand of Russians who want an outward-looking society and an economy that depends more on the innovativeness and resourcefulness of its people, rather than on resources pulled out of the ground. It can also provide positive reinforcement to those working to create a level playing field, with transparent, predictable rules to serve as a hedge against corruption and further Russia’s political modernization. These are not just my own views. They are the arguments of some of the Kremlin’s harshest critics who have called on the United States to terminate Jackson-Vanik. That does not diminish their deep concerns about human rights and the Magnitskiy case–concerns which we strongly share.

Neither WTO membership nor extending PNTR to Russia can instantly create the kind of change the Russian people are seeking. PNTR should be one part of a stronger and fuller rule of law framework that we pursue with Russia, combined with the investment protections that would come with a new Bilateral Investment Treaty and implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which Russia joined earlier this year. These steps will not transform Russia’s economy overnight. But they will help integrate Russia into the global economy and send strong signals to investors about Russia’s commitment to strengthening rule of law.

As I said earlier, I’ve learned in many years of helping to navigate U.S.-Russian relations that we have to be realistic about the challenges which lie ahead.

We have serious and enduring differences with Russia that PNTR will not change. We continue to disagree fundamentally about Georgia, whose sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence we firmly support. We also disagree fundamentally about Syria, where no stable outcome is possible as long as Bashar al-Asad remains in power, shedding the blood of his own people and risking a spillover of sectarian violence in a region that already has more than its share of troubles. Russia must make a choice here in determining where its interests lie. In the meantime—with Russia’s help or without it—we will continue to work with others in the international community to seek an end to the violence and to develop concrete steps to support a real political transition that advances the processes of reform, reconciliation, and reconstruction.

We also have profound differences with Russia over human rights. We want to see Russia emerge as both a global power and a vibrant democracy with strong rule of law. And we are seeing a new generation of Russians asking important questions of their own leaders. Without an active and independent media, how will Russia succeed in rooting out corruption and its debilitating effects on the economy? How will Russia build a modern political system responsive to modern challenges unless its citizens and activists can freely express dissenting views, without fear of political prosecution? How can Russia strengthen accountability in governance when whistleblowers like Sergey Magnitsky are arrested or killed for pointing out fraud and abuse? What will Russia do to develop a strong, capable civil society when NGOs receiving foreign funds are stigmatized with misleading labels?

While we cannot and should not impose American solutions, we can and do support those Russians who are seeking answers to these tough questions about their nation’s future. We are already taking concrete steps, using existing restrictions on human rights abusers, to ensure that no one implicated in the death of Sergey Magnitsky can travel to the U.S. We will also continue to support programs that bolster Russia’s civil society and strengthen the hand of those seeking a freer and more open and democratic future for Russia.

By now it should be clear, this is not a simple or easy relationship. Given the complexities and hard work involved, it may be tempting to downplay Russia’s importance. We do not have that luxury. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and one of the world’s largest nuclear powers, and it will remain profoundly in America’s interest to work with Russia where our interests overlap. Already over the last three years we have shown that we can achieve significant results, including on reductions of strategic nuclear weapons and on Afghanistan, where Russia has proven itself a valued partner in ensuring the safe transit of our personnel and equipment to the region. With PNTR, we hope to add expanded trade to this list.

We are encouraged that committees in the Senate and the House have passed PNTR legislation with broad bipartisan support. We also understand that it is likely that a PNTR bill will be considered by both chambers of Congress along with legislation addressing the tragic case of Sergey Magnitskiy. We continue to believe that the case for extending PNTR to Russia stands on its own merits. And, in close consultation with Congress, we will continue to seek out the most effective avenues to address the Magnitskiy case and human rights more broadly.

The economic and strategic stakes are clear. And so is the choice before Congress. Either give Americans the chance to compete on a level playing field in an important market—or we can ensure that the opportunities we worked so hard to create are seized not by Americans, but by workers and businesses beyond our shores. We urge Congress to take action as soon as possible.

Thank you again for the opportunity to meet with you today. Thank you for all your efforts on this important issue. And thank you for everything that the U.S. Chamber does to help ensure that Americans understand the growing connection between economic renewal at home and opening up new markets and new possibilities overseas. I look forward very much to continuing to work with you in that enormously important mission. Thank you.