Biden, G-7 revoke Russia’s favoured nation trading status

US President Joe Biden said the United States will revoke Russia's "permanent normal trade relations" status to punish Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Joe Biden said on Friday (March 11) that the Group of Seven industrialised nations will revoke Russia’s "most favoured nation" trade status, and announced a US ban on Russian seafood, alcohol and diamonds, the latest steps to punish Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.  

The move would deliver "another crushing blow" to Russia, as it continues its aggression in Ukraine, Mr Biden said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is an "aggressor, the aggressor", Mr Biden said, and he must "pay a price".

He also said the United States would add new names to a list of Russian oligarchs who are sanctioned, and ban the export of luxury goods to Russia.  

In a separate statement, the White House said Mr Biden would ban US investment in Russia beyond the energy sector, and that G-7 nations would move to block Russia from funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

"Those are the latest steps we’re taking but they’re not the last steps we’re taking," said Mr Biden.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation".  

The coordinated moves by Washington, London and other allies come on top of a host of unprecedented sanctions, export controls and banking restrictions aimed at pressuring Mr Putin to end the largest war in Europe since World War II.  

The moves have already caused the Russian economy to crater, and IMF is now predicting that it will plunge into a "deep recession" this year.  

The US is expanding sanctions on Russia to include executives of sanctioned banks and Russian banker Yuri Kovalchuk, as well as Russian lawmakers.  

"Russia cannot grossly violate international law and expect to benefit from being part of the international economic order," said the White House in a statement.

Stripping Russia of its favoured nation status paves the way for the US and its allies to impose tariffs on a wide range of Russian goods, which would further ratchet up pressure on an economy that is already heading into a "deep recession".

Russia is among the world’s top exporters of oil, natural gas, copper, aluminium, palladium and other important commodities, and accounted for 1.9 per cent of global trade in 2020.  

Since fewer sanctions were imposed in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea, China has emerged as its biggest export destination. 

In the US, removing Russia’s "permanent normal trade relations" status will require an Act of Congress, but lawmakers in both Houses – and on both sides of the political aisle – have already signalled their support.

The White House will work with lawmakers on legislation to revoke Russia’s status, administration sources said.

In 2019, Russia was the 26th largest goods trading partner of the US, with some US$28 billion (S$38 billion) exchanged between the two countries, according to the US Trade Representative’s office.  

The ban of US luxury exports to Russia and Belarus – including high-end watches, vehicles, clothes, alcohol and jewellery – takes effect immediately on Friday, the Commerce Department said in a separate statement as part of the effort to further isolate Moscow and its allies.

The US imported US$1.2 billion in Russian fish and shellfish in 2021, according to the US Census Bureau, including sturgeon black caviar.

America that year also imported from Russia US$275 million worth of diamonds, and about US$21 million in alcoholic beverages, according to the Census Bureau. 

Top imports from Russia included mineral fuels, precious metal and stone, iron and steel, fertilisers and inorganic chemicals, all goods that could face higher tariffs once Congress acts to revoke Russia’s favoured nation trade status. 

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