WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, on Thursday introduced legislation to end Cold War-era trade restrictions for Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and grant those countries permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status.

In 1974, in an effort to pressure the Soviet Union to improve its treatment of persecuted groups, Congress passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment, denying full U.S. trade relations to countries that restricted emigration rights for Soviet Jews and other minority groups. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Congress has passed legislation to graduate many former Soviet states, including the Kyrygz Republic, Ukraine, and Russia, to PNTR status, but despite complying with the emigration provisions in Jackson-Vanik, U.S. relations with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan are still constrained by this anachronistic law.

“As Russia and China’s influence on Central Asia begins to wane, a Cold War-era relic could cost the United States an important opportunity to redefine our relationship with the region. Once a useful tool to coerce the Soviet Union into improving its treatment of Soviet Jews and minority groups, today the Jackson-Vanik amendment is an outdated trade policy that is holding back our partnerships with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. This bipartisan legislation would advance our economic interests while sending a clear message that the United States is committed to bringing our relationship with Central Asia into the 21st century,” said Murphy.

“It’s time to fix these outdated and restrictive policies that are hindering our nation’s ability to build trade and commercial relationships in a critical region,” said Senator Young. “Our bipartisan bill will deepen our bilateral and regional relations with key countries in Central Asia, especially as we seek to secure access to critical resources and ensure a pathway for greater regional development and prosperity. This bill will lead to stronger trade ties, expanded international market access, and a greater ability to counter malign influence from China and Russia,” said Young.

 “NCSEJ strongly supports the introduction of bi-partisan legislation by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Senator Todd Young (R-IN) to extend Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. All three countries have met the conditions of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment which requires their citizens to emigrate without restrictions. Moving this legislation forward will further strengthen ties between the United States and these countries in an increasingly important part of the world,” said National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ) CEO Mark B. Levin.

Murphy wrote an op-ed for The Diplomat calling on Congress to repeal Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions for Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan and grant those countries permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status. Earlier this year, Murphy and Young held a subcommittee hearing on shifting geopolitical and energy dynamics in Central Asia.