He meant, of course, that free trade — and the natural human desire for better living conditions — played a major part in the collapse of communism.
Trade will make lives for those in Russia better, she contends.
“As the demonstrations across Russia over the past six months make clear, the country’s middle class is demanding a more transparent and accountable government, a more modern political system, and a diversified economy,” she explains. “We should support these Russian efforts.
Gradually, more and more Republicans are siding with Sec. Clinton and the Obama administration on the issue.
“A top House Republican and the Obama administration’s leading trade official are pressing for Congress to pass a bill normalizing trade relations with Russia without tacking on human rights legislation,” The Hill reported on Wednesday. “House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Wednesday they prefer a clean bill that repeals the obsolete Jackson-Vanik provision and grants Moscow permanent normal trade relations (PNTR).”
The truth is, Jackson-Vanik is an obsolete provision. It was enacted when thousands of Jews sought to leave the Soviet Union and other communist countries. But since then, as The Hill notes, “it has been used as leverage in trade talks to win concessions from Russia and other former Soviet bloc states.”
And that’s a misuse.
“Some argue that continuing to apply Jackson-Vanik to Russia would give us some leverage in these areas of disagreement,” Sec. Clinton says. “We disagree — and so do leaders of Russia’s political opposition. They have called on the U.S. to terminate Jackson-Vanik, despite their concerns about human rights…”
Conservatives face two conflicting impulses here; there’s the basic assumption that more trade, and more trade that is more free, are good things. But there’s also the basic assumption that repressive regimes are bad.
But as our experience in the Cold War era shows, those assumptions don’t have to be in conflict. Sometimes free trade can help to make societies free.