U.S. trade chief to Russia: Lift meat bans

by Bryan Salvage
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MOSCOW — Moscow should lift its restrictions on U.S. poultry and pork imports to encourage the U.S. Congress to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a key irritant in U.S.-Russian relations, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said Wednesday. Mr. Locke said U.S. lawmakers would likely regard action on meat imports as a first step toward repealing the 1974 law that limited trade with Communist nations, which restricted the emigration of Soviet Jews, according to The Associated Press.

Russia was told by President Barack Obama’s administration it would make repealing the law a priority, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday. The law remains on the books due to lingering post-Cold War disputes on human rights, trade and other issues.

In 2008, Russia restricted poultry imports and this spring it banned pork imports from some U.S. states after the outbreak of swine flu, although the World Health Organization said meat products cannot transmit the illness. Earlier this year Russia raised tariffs on meat imports.

Russia and the U.S. have set up a working group on trade, the first under a new commission established Monday by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to expand commercial, scientific and cultural ties, Mr. Locke said.

"The Russian government is very eager to get working on this working group," Mr. Locke added. He said the level of trade between the two economies is "a fraction of what it could be."

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