PNTR and MFN Status: Congress, Russia and Syria—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #4 (March 5)

For earlier articles on Syria by The Trenchant Observer, see the Articles on Syria page.


Congress need not stand idly by while Russia provides arms and ammunition and probably intelligence, financial and other support to Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime, acting in effect as an accomplice to the the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria.

The Senate and the House should consider carefully whether there are any bilatreral measures which might be taken against Russia in response to its support of Bashar Al-Assad’s continuing commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

Whether permanent Most-Favered-Nation (MFN) status–now known as Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status should be granted to Russia–thereby revoking the Jackson-Vanik amendment requiring presidential certification of free emingration requirements–is a question now before Congress.

–See William H. Cooper, Congressional Research Service, “Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR)
Status for Russia and U.S.-Russian Economic Ties,” January 30, 2012 (7-5700,, RS21123).

The establishment of PNTR status for Russia should be removed from consideration until long after the dust has settled in Syria.

There is also a question of whether MFN treatment under the World Trade Organization agreements can be suspended under special circumstances. This issue merits close consideration. 

Other bilateral benefits the U.S. grants to Russia in trade and other areas should also be examined.  If some can be indentified as candidates for suspension, the corresponding bill should be introduced into the House or the Senate at the earliest opportunity.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.