WASHINGTON, August 23 - RAPSI. The United States believes that Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be a good step toward improving trade relations between the two countries.

Russia formally became the 156th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Wednesday, when the protocol on Russia's accession to the Marrakech Agreement establishing the WTO took effect after 18 years of negotiations.

"We think it's not only good news for Russia; we also think it's good news for American companies and workers because it's going to improve our own access to one of the world's fastest-growing markets," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press-briefing on Wednesday.

She said that Russia's accession to the WTO will help the Russian economy reach global standards which will foster US business in Russia. The US administration has long been urging its congress to grant Russia a status conducive to normal trade relations by cancelling the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

Previously, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mi.) said that the House of Representatives did not have enough time to consider the bills to withdraw the Jackson-Vanik amendment, crucial for normalizing trade relations with Russia, and to adopt the Magnitsky act before the presidential and congressional elections in November.

The Magnitsky act would impose visa and financial sanctions against Russian nationals believed to have been involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, who passed away in pre-trial detention in 2009.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment was adopted by Congress in 1974 and imposed restrictions on trade with the Soviet Union. The amendment was a response to the lack of the freedom to emigrate in the Soviet Union. At the moment, the amendment is still formally valid, however, since 1989, the United States has annually placed a moratorium on it and the current administration has repeatedly promised to secure its official withdrawal.

The presidential and congressional elections will both be held on November 6.