Biden calls for ending normal trade relations with Russia

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday called on Congress to join the European Union and the Group of Seven industrial nations in suspending normal trade relations with Russia, allowing new tariffs to be imposed in response to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech at the White House, Biden said the U.S. will also ban imports of Russian diamonds, seafood and vodka.

“Putin is the aggressor,” Biden said. “And Putin must pay a price.”

Revoking normal trade relations, which requires congressional action in the United States, would end Russia’s status as a “most favored nation,” a classification within the World Trade Organization that exempts a country from tariffs.

The move comes as the U.S. and its European allies have hit Russia with round after round of economic sanctions in an effort to squeeze Russian President Vladimir Putin. The International Monetary Fund is predicting that Russia will plunge into a “deep recession” this year.

“As Putin continues his merciless assault, the United States and our allies and partners continue to work in lockstep to ramp up the economic pressures on Putin and to further isolate Russia on a global stage,” Biden said. 

Biden said that he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier Friday morning and reiterated his support for the country.

Revoking trade relations with Russia is likely to get bipartisan support in Congress. Earlier this week, the House passed legislation on a 414-17 vote that banned imports of Russian oil and energy products and took steps to review Russia’s World Trade Organization participation.

Biden thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday for agreeing to hold off on ending normal trade relations with Russia until Biden said he could “line up all of our key allies to keep us in complete unison.”

“Many issues divide us in Washington. But standing for democracy in Ukraine, pushing [back against] Russia’s aggression, should not be one of those issues,” Biden said. “A free world is coming together to confront Putin.”

It is unclear how much of an impact ending normal trade relations would have. Russia is not one of the U.S.’s top trading partners, with its exports to the U.S. totaling $29 billion in 2021.

Top imports from Russia include oil and gas products — which the U.S. has already banned — as well as precious metal and stone, iron and steel, fertilizers and inorganic chemicals.

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