United States

Biden Calls for an End to Russia's ‘Most Favored Nation' Trade Status

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
  • President Joe Biden on Friday called for the U.S. to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" status.
  • Biden also signed an executive order banning the import of Russian seafood, liquor and non-industrial diamonds, and the export of American luxury goods to Russia.
  • Biden needs an act of Congress to revoke Russia's trade classification, but both Democrats and Republicans support the move.

President Joe Biden on Friday called for the U.S. to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" status, which would downgrade Russia as a trading partner and open the door to damaging new tariffs on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union and the Group of Seven nations are expected to take the same steps, Biden said. Canada already removed Russia's most favored nation status last week.

Biden signed an executive order Friday banning the import of Russian seafood, non-industrial diamonds and liquor to the United States.

The order also prohibits the export or sale of American luxury goods to anyone located in Russia. This includes high-end watches and clothes, jewelry, top-shelf liquor and luxury vehicles — all of which feature prominently in the lifestyles of mega-rich Russian oligarchs.

Speaking at the White House, Biden repeatedly singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin, who rules the country as an autocrat.

"Putin is the aggressor," said Biden. "And Putin must pay the price."

Friday was the 16th day of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and reports from the ground indicated that Russian forces had increased their artillery attacks on civilian targets.

Despite its military superiority, Russia has so far failed to take its two primary targets, the city of Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv.

"Putin's war against Ukraine will never be a victory," Biden said. "He hoped to dominate Ukraine without a fight, he failed. He hoped to fracture European resolve, he failed."

"He hoped to weaken the transatlantic alliance, he failed. He hoped to split apart American democracy, in terms of our positions. He failed," said Biden.

Following Biden's remarks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House intends to pass legislation next week to revoke Russia's MFN status.

The Senate, likewise, is moving forward with a bill. "We're working on an agreement that the Senate can pass quickly," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters Friday.

Both Republicans and Democrats have strongly endorsed Biden's non-military efforts to punish Russia and some have already proposed legislation to revoke Russia's WTO membership. 

Biden's announcement marked the latest push by the U.S. and dozens of other countries to ratchet up their unprecedented efforts to isolate and undermine Russia's economy.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine directly asked Congress last weekend to revoke Russia's most favored nation status.

Earlier this week Biden signed an executive order banning Russian oil imports. The U.S., EU and NATO countries have also imposed sanctions on Russian businesses, members of its elite oligarch class and even Putin himself.

Hundreds of major corporations have voluntarily pulled their businesses out of the country.

If Russia's trade status is revoked, the Biden administration and Congress will be able to impose taxes on any goods Russia exports to the U.S.

Russia was the U.S.' 26th-largest trading partner in 2019, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Russian exports to the U.S. in 2021 totaled $29 billion, the majority of which comprised oil and gas products.

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