- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2022

President Biden on Friday announced that the U.S., European Union and Group of Seven countries will move to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status, allowing countries to impose higher tariffs on Russian imports.

Speaking at the White House, Mr. Biden said the move “will be another crushing blow to the Russian economy,” adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin must pay a price for the attack on Ukraine.

“He cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundations — which he is doing — the very foundations of international peace and stability and then ask for financial help from the international community,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden also announced that the U.S. would sanction more Russian oligarchs and work with G-7 countries to seize their assets.

The move, which requires an act of Congress, would put Russia’s trade relationship with the U.S. in the same category as North Korea and Cuba. It also escalates the isolation of the Russian economy as punishment for Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

Mr. Biden said Congress will introduce the bill later Friday that revokes Russia’s permanent normal trade relations. Other countries will follow suit depending on how their national processes work.

Tariffs on Russian imports could soar from zero to as much as 30% depending on the product if trade status is revoked.

Russia imports roughly $22.3 billion worth of goods to the U.S., ranking it the 20th largest supplier of imported goods to America, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.  

The top Russian imports include mineral fuels, precious metal and stone, iron and steel, fertilizer, and inorganic chemicals. That includes uranium, palladium, king crabs, certain kinds of diamonds and ammunition.

Mr. Biden also announced a ban on Russian imports of alcohol and seafood.

The move announced Friday follows Mr. Biden’s ban on Russian oil gas and coal, which cut off about 60% of U.S. imports to the country.

Bipartisan calls in Congress to strip Russia of its trade status have grown in recent weeks. An earlier version of a House bill banning the import of Russian energy included a provision that would revoke trade relations for Russia and Belarus.

The provision was ultimately removed amid White House objections because Mr. Biden wanted to coordinate with U.S. allies before taking the step. Mr. Biden said he’s looking forward to signing a new bill. 

“The free world is coming together to confront Putin. Our two parties here at home are leading the way,” Mr. Biden said. “And with that bipartisan cooperation, I’m looking forward to signing into law the bill revoking [permanent normal trade relations.]”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed the U.S. and its allies to take action against Russia’s trade status when he addressed Congress over the weekend.

Canada last week became the first major nation to revoke its trade status with Russia.

Revoking most trade status with Russia is the latest economic sanction the U.S. and its allies have imposed. They have already sanctioned Russian banks and oligarchs as well as banning some Russian banks from the SWIFT financial system.

As a result, Russia’s economy is in free fall with the ruble’s value dropping considerably.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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