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President Biden on Friday announced that he will work with Congress on legislation to revoke Russia’s permanent normal trade relations status because of its invasion of Ukraine.
That would mean Russia would be one of only three countries to not have normal trade relationships with the United States – the other two are Cuba and North Korea — and it would allow for significantly higher duties on imports of Russian goods.
“Putin is an aggressor. He is the aggressor. And Putin must pay the price,” Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden announced that the United States was also banning the import of certain Russian goods like seafood, vodka and diamonds, which the White House said was worth more than $1 billion per year to Russia, and banned U.S. exports of watches, luxury vehicles, high-end clothing, alcohol and jewelry and other high-end goods to Russia, trade worth about $550 million per year.
“We’re showing our strength, and we will not falter,” Biden said.
The move comes as the G-7 and European Union take similar moves to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status. Canada revoked that status for Russia last week.
According to the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. imports from Russia were worth $22 billion in 2019, the vast majority of which was oil, metals, fertilizer and chemicals.
Friday’s announcement came just days after the U.S. announced a ban on all U.S. imports of Russian oil, gas and other forms of energy. U.S. allies in Europe were not part of the announcement because they rely much more heavily on Russian energy imports — the United States counts on Russian oil for less than 10% of its imports.
In his Friday remarks, Biden warned Putin against using chemical weapons in Ukraine.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had earlier this week asserted Russia might possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them, but the White House did not provide evidence to back up its claim.
Asked whether the United States has intelligence about this threat, Biden said: “I’m not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia would pay a severe price if they use chemical weapons.”
Biden, who said he spoke at length with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday, said the United States and its allies were coordinating closely to devise economic sanctions against Putin and his allies.
Biden said NATO, the EU and G-7 would join the United States in revoking Russia’ “most favored nation” trade status.
The move, Biden said, was backed by leaders from both parties in Congress. He went on to thank House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for holding off on legislation needed to make the move until the White House could line up support from key allies for a coordinated move.
Biden on Friday also announced that more oligarchs had been added to the sanctions list, in an attempt to strip the Russian billionaires of flashy luxury purchases like vacation homes and yachts.
“They support Putin. They steal from the Russian people. And they seek to hide their money in our countries,” Biden said. “They must share in the pain of these sanctions.”
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