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Clinton calls for closer trade relations with Russia as US lawmakers seek to punish Moscow over rights.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today called on US lawmakers to "act" quickly and normalize trade relations with the World Trade Organization's newest member, Russia, a move The New York Times said puts her in conflict with legislation meant to punish human rights abuses there.
Her remarks come amid increasing attention to Russia's poor human rights record thanks to the headline-grabbing punk band Pussy Riot, which has called for protests against the authoritarian leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin, leading to the arrest of several members.
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But Clinton did not mention US lawmakers' efforts to counter such behavior during her remarks at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting in Russia's Vladivostok today, according to NYT. The Magnitsky bill, which has angered Moscow, would bar Russian officials suspected of abuse from getting visas and block their financial assets, thus complicating Clinton's call for full trade relations.
Also problematic is legislation dating back to 1974, a piece of work known as the Jackson-Vanik amendment. Although temporarily suspended, the economic restrictions, introduced in order to pressure the then-Soviet Union, "somehow remains on the American statute book," said BBC News.
"To make sure our companies get to compete here in Russia, we are working closely with the United States Congress to terminate the application to Jackson-Vanik to Russia and grant Russia permanent normalized trade relations," Clinton told representatives of 21 nations at APEC today. "We hope that the Congress will act on this important piece of legislation this month," she added, reported BBC.
As for the human rights issue, the US Secretary of State reportedly discussed the problem with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today over a "private breakfast of crepes and red caviar," reported NYT, citing State Department officials.
Clinton is filling in for Obama at the APEC trade conference, attendance of which represents 40 percent of the global economy, according to NYT.