Obama signs trade bill with Russia

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama Friday signed a bill that brings U.S. trade relations with Russia into the 21st century but also ushers in a testy era in which the United States could publicly "name and shame" Russian human rights violators.

The measure, which Congress passed by an overwhelming margin, allows Obama to establish "permanent normal trade relations" with Russia by lifting a Cold War-era restriction on trade.

It also directs Obama to bar Russian human rights violators from entering the United States and freeze any assets they have in U.S. banks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called the congressional approval of the bill "a purely political and unfriendly act."

Moscow kept up the fiery rhetoric Friday in a Foreign Ministry statement after Obama's signing. It called the law "shortsighted and dangerous" and an "overt interference into our internal affairs."

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Also, Russian legislators gave initial approval to a bill that would impose sanctions on Americans accused of human rights violations.

U.S.-Russia relations have already been strained over the conflict in Syria and the treatment of critics of the Kremlin since Putin returned to the presidency in May.

Russia last week banned imports of U.S. pork and beef containing ractopamine, a widely used feed additive the United Nation's food agency in July said "had no impact on human health" if residues stay within recommended levels.

"Being a WTO member means Russia's import standards have to be based on sound science, but their plan to block U.S. beef and pork is anything but sound," Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus said, referring to the World Trade Organization, which Russia joined in August.

He urged Moscow to reverse the move.

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