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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Presses Congress To Lift Jackson-Vanik

WASHINGTON -- The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has told Russia it will press Congress to lift Soviet-era restrictions on trade early next year, U.S. officials said Wednesday, rewarding Moscow for its cooperation ahead of a possible conflict with Iraq.

Senior Republican and Democratic congressional aides said a compromise was possible, but a similar effort failed last year despite pressure from Bush.

Bush and President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue when they met last week in St. Petersburg, and U.S. officials promised to seek legislative action as early as January, when Congress reconvenes.

The move is part of a broader diplomatic effort by Washington to ready its allies for a possible war with Iraq. Israel and Turkey are among the countries negotiating military and economic aid packages with Washington.

At issue for Russia is the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, Cold War legislation that links trade and emigration policies. To Russia, the amendment is more a diplomatic than economic affront. While it prohibits countries without market economies from enjoying normal trade relations with the United States, Russia has received annual waivers for years.

Bush pressed for congressional action last year but lawmakers balked, in part to protest a dispute over Russian imports of U.S. poultry.

Many Democratic lawmakers were also wary of giving up Jackson-Vanik because they see it as leverage in negotiations over Moscow's accession to the World Trade Organization. They want Russia to agree to sweeping new measures to open its economy to foreign competition.

But key Democratic congressional aides said a compromise could be reached early next year creating a new mechanism giving lawmakers input into the WTO negotiations in exchange for lifting the Jackson-Vanik restrictions.

Eager for congressional action, Moscow has signaled support for such a compromise, an aide said.

"We have made clear [to Moscow] that we are going to work very closely with Congress to graduate Russia from Jackson-Vanik," U.S. National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said.

In June, the Bush administration acknowledged Russia as a market economy, easing Russian access to U.S. markets. The move was Putin's first tangible payoff for vocal support of the U.S. military response to the Sept. 11 attacks.