April 23, 2011
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№ 3 (March 2011)

Suit Filed to Require President Obama to Lift 'Jackson-Vanik' for Russia

Suit was filed today in U.S. federal court to require President Barack Obama to use his existing legal authority to permanently remove the Russian Federation from trade restrictions under the 1974 "Jackson-Vanik" law. A press conference on the suit will be held at 8:00 AM tomorrow, Tuesday, April 19, in the offices of Bailey Gary PC (1615 L Street NW Suite 650, Washington), counsel for plaintiffs, with video link to the Interfax news agency in Moscow.  Participants will include the plaintiffs and their attorneys, members of the Russian Duma, and American and Russian experts on U.S.-Russia ties.

By Bailey Gary PC law firm

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"For the better part of two decades the Executive Branch, under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, has claimed to support Russia's 'graduation' from Jackson-Vanik, while lamenting inaction by Congress," states James T. Pitts, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.   "But a close reading of the amendment shows that Congressional action is not necessary to remove Russia permanently from these outdated, Cold War-era provisions.  The president has all the authority he needs, and we respectfully hope this suit will impel him to use it."

The action has been brought by Edward Lozansky, a former Soviet dissident whose wife and daughter were "refuseniks" for 6 years and who at a 2010 House of Representatives hearing on Jackson-Vanik testified:

"Having been separated by the Soviet authorities from my wife and child for over six years since they could not get such an exit visa, I can confirm that Jackson-Vanik played a very important role not only in the process of lifting restrictions on emigration but on the whole process of democratic and human rights developments in the countries of the former USSR.  But I strongly believe that now Jackson-Vanik is not only obsolete but even harmful to U.S. interests. What was good 30 or 40 years ago may not be appropriate today."

Enacted in 1974, Jackson-Vanik barred normal trade ties between the U.S. and communist ("non-market economy") countries unless they permitted free emigration of their citizens.  Most countries formerly impacted by Jackson-Vanik have been permanently "graduated" from its provisions. But due to unrelated trade and political issues, Russia has not, even though for years Russia has been in full compliance with the amendment's emigration requirements.  In addition, in 2002 the Department of Commerce determined Russia was no longer a "non-market economy," which, according to Richard Perle - a noted hardliner about Russia and drafter of the Jackson-Vanik language - itself is sufficient to release Russia from its provisions.

In addition to Lozansky, the other lead plaintiff is Anthony T. Salvia, an expert on U.S.-Russia relations and former Reagan Administration appointee and head of the Radio Liberty bureau in Moscow.   It is expected that additional American plaintiffs disadvantaged by the amendment's continued application to Russia may join in the action.
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