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Biden announces U.S. will move to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status

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Posted at 10:19 AM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 12:19:19-05

President Biden announced Friday that the U.S., European Union and G7 countries are moving to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status over its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. will also take steps to ban the import of Russian seafood, diamonds and vodka, he said.

"Each of our nations is going to take steps to deny most favored nation status to Russia," he announced. "A most-favored-nation status designation means two countries have agreed to trade with each other under the best possible terms — low tariffs, few barriers to trade and the highest-possible imports allowed."

The G7 soon after Friday released a statement announcing the multi-nation move, saying they are "united in our determination to hold President Putin and his regime accountable for this unjustified and unprovoked war that has already isolated Russia in the world."

Bipartisan lawmakers have been calling on him to revoke the status, known in the U.S. as "permanent normal trade relations," with Russia. The preferred status means that nations cannot discriminate in their treatment of their trading partners, and the removal of that status means the U.S. and allies will be able to impose tariffs on Russian imports. The White House says Mr. Biden will work closely with Congress to revoke that permanent normal trade relations status from Russia.

"Putin is an aggressor. He is the aggressor. And Putin must pay the price," Mr. Biden said Friday. "He cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundations...of international peace and stability."

The president also thanked Congress for approving $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine this week, and said he will sign that into law immediately. He also said the U.S. will welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms.

Should it deploy chemical weapons, Russia will pay a "severe price," the president said, without specifying what that price would be.

U.S. imports from Russia account for a small share of the United States' imports — about 1%, according to the Congressional Research Service — with crabs and iron among some of the biggest imports after Russian energy, which the U.S. is already blocking.

Within the past few days, companies such as Starbucks, McDonald's, Hilton Worldwide Hotels, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. have announced changes to their operations in Russia, decisions the White House says have been made by the companies, independent of the U.S. government.

The Biden administration has received reports that Russia is considering seizing the assets of countries that have announced they intend to suspend their operations in Russia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Thursday night. She said the possible Russian retaliation would "ultimately result in even more economic pain for Russia" and "compound the clear message to the global business community that Russia is not a safe place to invest and do business."

The U.S. and its allies have imposed punishing sanctions against Russia since the invasion, taking aim at the country's financial system and Russian elites, including Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

Earlier this week, Mr. Biden also announced a U.S. ban on Russian oil and gas imports, targeting "the main artery of Russia's economy" as Russian forces continue battering Ukrainian cities.

"We're banning all imports of Russian oil and gas energy," the president said. "That means Russian oil will no longer be accepted in U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine."

World leaders are expected to convene on Friday morning after Russia hastily called a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss in open debate what it called "the military biological activities of the U.S. on the territory of Ukraine" — leading the Biden administration to immediately denounce it as a "false flag effort."

Some GOP senators are urging the Biden administration to reverse course and allow the transfer of Poland's MiG fighter jets to the Ukrainians to fight the Russians. But some worry such a move would be viewed by Russia as an escalatory act.

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Poland and Romania this week to meet with allied leaders there about the crisis in Ukraine.