WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor said on Tuesday he does not see adequate support emerging to pass legislation upgrading American trade relations with Russia.
"Unfortunately, we don't see the bipartisan coalition we need to pass it," Cantor told reporters. He added that House Republicans were continuing to work with Senate leaders to try to find support for the measure.
Congress is under pressure to approve "permanent normal trade relations" with Russia to ensure that U.S. companies share in all the market-opening benefits of Moscow's entry into the World Trade Organization last month.
However, Russia's support for Iran and Syria, as well as its record on human rights, makes it unpopular in Congress.
Despite Cantor's comment, business groups have said there is strong bipartisan support for the PNTR bill because U.S. companies will be at a disadvantage to European and Asian competitors in the Russian market if the legislation is not approved.
In early August, Cantor said he planned to bring up the Russia trade bill on the so-called suspension calendar usually reserved for non-controversial pieces of legislation. To broaden support for the measure, Cantor also said he planned to attach another bill which would target Russian officials for human rights violations.
Passing a bill on the suspension calendar requires a two-thirds vote, instead of a simple majority, meaning Republicans would need help from a substantial number of Democrats.
Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of not doing enough to round up Democratic support for the Russia trade bill.
Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney supports the bill, but only if the human rights bill is attached, his campaign said last week.
(Reporting By Richard Cowan and Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Beech and David Brunnstrom)