Business
3:48 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Washington companies hope U.S. passes Russian trade bill

Everyone from Boeing to fish processors and apple growers stands to benefit if the U.S. normalizes trade relations with Russia. That’s coming up for a vote Friday in the House of Representatives.

Russia joined the World Trade Organization in August and lowered a whole bunch of tariffs on things like airplanes and fish.

But U.S. companies can’t take advantage of those lower tariffs until our government passes something called permanent normal trade relations. That wouldn’t reduce any of our tariffs – it just gets rid of a Cold War era bill that required Russia to allow emigration of Jews. The U.S. has since determined that’s no longer an issue.

Eric Schinfeld is president of the Washington Council on International Trade. He says Russia last year was Washington state’s fastest-growing export market, but the old tariff system prevented it from getting really big.

"Russia is such a huge economy and we've really only begun to scratch the surface," Schinfeld said. "Right now, Russia is I think our 32nd largest trade partner as a state, right behind Panama. So for an economy the size of Russia, we really have so much opportunity there."

Schinfeld says Russian tariffs for airplanes will drop as much as 60 percent or so when the U.S. passes trade normalization. That would help Boeing better compete against Airbus in the Russian market.

Boeing managing director Julie Felgar says the company expects Russian demand for airplanes to grow.

"The Russian market in the next 20 years we expect Russian airlines to purchase nearly 900 new commercial airplanes valued at approximately $100 billion," Felgar said.

One complication to all of this? Some people in Congress want to pass a human rights bill tied to the trade normalization – something the Russian government is not happy about.