Biden calls for termination of Russia’s trade status as ‘most favored nation’

US President Joe Biden announces new actions against Russia for its war against Ukraine, during remarks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, US, March 11, 2022.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Friday called on the US to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status, which would degrade 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 countries are expected to take the same step, multiple outlets reported Friday. Canada already removed Russia’s most favored nation status last week.

To end permanent normal trade ties with Russia, Biden will need action from Congress. In particular, the House and Senate must revoke Russia’s classification as a member of the World Trade Organization.

Biden is not expected to face serious resistance from Congress on this point. Republicans and Democrats alike have strongly supported non-military efforts to punish Russia, and some have already proposed legislation to revoke Russia’s WTO membership.

“I think we should use the power of Article 21 under the WTO to revoke that,” R-Ohio Senator Rob Portman said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday.

The House also overwhelmingly backed legislation this week requiring the US trade representative to consider suspending Russia’s participation in the WTO.

Biden’s announcement marks the final push from the US and dozens of other countries to step up their unprecedented efforts to isolate and undermine Russia’s economy in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was interviewed from a bunker in the capital of Kiev as Russian troops approach the city, had directly asked Congress this weekend to revoke Russia’s most favored nation status.

Biden signed an executive order this week banning Russian oil imports. The US, EU and NATO countries have imposed sanctions on Russian companies, their elite oligarchs and even Putin, while a growing number of large companies have withdrawn their businesses from the country.

If Russia’s trade status is revoked, the Biden administration and Congress could levy taxes on goods Russia exports to the US

According to the US Trade Representative’s office, Russia was the US’s 26th largest trading partner in 2019. Russian exports to the US were $29 billion in 2021, the majority of which were oil and gas products.