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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Scholars Lose Challenge to Russian Trade Limits

WASHINGTON (CN) - Russian scholars cannot sue President Barack Obama to drop trade restrictions with the Russian Federation first imposed in the middle of the Cold War.

U.S. presidents have discretion under the Jackson-Vanik amendment of the Trade Act of 1974 to restrict trade with countries that do not meet human rights standards.

The Ford administration subjected the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to this scheme in 1975, the same year Leonid Brezhnev signed the Helsinki Accords and laid the groundwork for human rights compliance in the Soviet Bloc.

After President George H.W. Bush first waived the restrictions against Russia in 1992, the country has enjoyed normal, but conditional, trade relations with the United States.

Edward Lozansky, a Washington, D.C., resident who serves as president of the American University in Moscow and organizer of the World Russia Forum, sued Obama over this classification last year. Lozansky's academic aide, Anthony Salvia, is a co-plaintiff in the case.

The complaint claims that Obama has both the authority and the nondiscretionary duty to permanently "graduate" the Russian Federation from compliance with the amendment's requirements.

But Obama countered that the plaintiffs failed establish jurisdiction or state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

Lozansky claimed that the instability in U.S.-Russia trade relations hurts his financial interests, but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said he did not show how the requested relief would address his alleged injuries.

Salvia meanwhile could not even show injury.

"Furthermore, plaintiffs fail to identify a ministerial duty the court could order the president to take, and thus fail to establish that a writ of mandamus could redress Lozansky's injury," the Jan. 26 decision states. "Finally, Lozansky's alleged injuries are outside the zone of interests of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, and plaintiff Lozansky lacks prudential standing to pursue his claims."

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