The Senate Finance Committee has unanimously approved chairman Max Baucus’, D-Mont. legislation establishing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Russia and Moldova. The legislation supports and creates thousands of U.S. jobs and is expected to double U.S. exports to Russia within five years, according to Baucus’ office.

Russia is on pace to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) next month. Baucus points out makes the need to extend PNTR status to Russia all the more critical, as well as repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which affects U.S. trade with countries that restrict freedom of emigration and those with poor human rights records.

The Russia PNTR bill requires the Obama administration to report on a number of trade issues, including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers against U.S. agricultural products, reports the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). The U.S. pork industry has concerns about several matters related to Russia’s WTO accession, primarily related to non-science-based trade barriers that have negatively affected U.S. pork exports to Russia.

Sen. Grassley, R-Iowa, raised those concerns during the debate on the legislation. He encouraged the administration to get assurances on standards for pathogens and antibiotics, specifically citing Salmonella and tetracycline. Grassley spoke in favor of an agreement to obtain firm commitments from Russia on outstanding SPS issues and guarantees to uphold science-based international standards for trade in agricultural products, NPPC reports.

According to Bauscus,that the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to take up legislation as well. “I am pleased Chairman Camp and Ranking Member Levin are moving forward on this bipartisan legislation so U.S. workers and businesses can take advantage of the job opportunities Russia joining the WTO presents for us here at home. Russia PNTR is about one thing: U.S. jobs. We can all agree on creating American jobs without giving up a single thing to Russia in return. Both the House and Senate need to pass this legislation before August so U.S. workers and businesses don’t lose out to their foreign competitors.”

Of course the legislation will have to be approved by both houses.

The PNTR would allow U.S. agriculture to access higher quotas for pork, beef and poultry products. Along with the more scientific and stable SPS requirements, the action would force Russia to reduce its ag subsidies and it would implement trade dispute settlement rules under the WTO.

In addition to requiring a continued effort by USTR to secure a bilateral agreement on SPS standards, the Finance Committee-approved PNTR bill also would require