Biden asks Congress to suspend Russia’s normal trade status over Ukraine war

President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday to call for an end to normal trade relations with Russia, clearing the way for increased import tariffs and a ban on Russian-made vodka and caviar. Photo by Al Drago/UPI

March 11 (UPI) — President Joe Biden said Friday that he will work with Congress to suspend Moscow’s permanent normal trade status with the United States in another blow to Russia’s economy over its war in Ukraine.

Biden made the announcement at the White House, and also said that Group of Seven member nations and European Union will do the same.

A suspension in normal trade status — also known as “Most-Favored Nation” status — would make it much tougher for Russia to do business with the bulk of the world’s largest economies. Biden said the move has bipartisan support in Congress and among European allies.

“Unity among our allies is critically important as you all know,” Biden said in his announcement. “The free world is coming together to confront [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

Biden added that the United States and G7 would make a joint statement later Friday. In the meantime, the United States is banning what he called signature Russian items, including seafood, vodka and diamonds.

As president, Biden cannot change Russia’s trade status unilaterally. It requires an act of Congress, but lawmakers are in agreement on Russia and are expected to comply with Biden’s request.

The president said his administration will work to prevent Russia from borrowing from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and noted that Moscow cannot start a bloody war in Ukraine and then ask for international help to finance it. He also said that he will continue to target wealthy Russian oligarchs and punish them for stealing from the Russian people.

“They must share in the pain of these sanctions,” he added.

The president also noted that the United States has given tens of thousands of tons in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and will continue to do so to make sure they “have the weapons to defend themselves.”

An initial House bill earlier this week aimed to suspend trade status for Russia and ally Belarus, but it was later pared down to suggest a review Moscow’s trade status in the World Trade Organization. Biden also banned imports of Russian oil earlier this week.

Some experts have said altering trade status would likely have little effect on Russia, as the country was the 20th largest supplier of goods for the United States in 2019 — which consisted mostly oil and gas, metals and chemicals. Collectively, however, the actions by all the G7 nations and EU would make more of an impact on Moscow.

After the announcement, Biden was scheduled to travel to the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia later on Friday before heading to Camp David in Maryland for the weekend.


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