(AP)  The U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said Wednesday that 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. The law remains on the books due to lingering post-Cold War disputes on human rights, trade and other issues.

President Obama's administration told Russia it would make repealing the law a priority, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.

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

Locke also said 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.

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

One major concern is Russia's effort to win entry to the World Trade Organization, which has been thrown into confusion after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia would only join the WTO as part of a customs union with neighboring Belarus and Kazakhstan. Locke said most WTO member nations thought the Russian plan was "unworkable, unprecedented and would only delay matters."

Source: Associated Press