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Congress strips Russia of “most-favored nation” trade status

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The U.S. House and Senate have both passed legislation to strip Russia and Belarus of their “most-favored nation” trade status with the U.S. That’s an international standard that most countries fall into – that says they’re “OK” to trade with and are entitled to favorable tariffs and other trade rules.

Congress also affirmed a Biden administration executive order banning U.S. imports of Russian crude oil and related products.

This latest effort to punish Russia through trade won’t inflict much more immediate damage on Russia’s economy, said Josh Lipsky at the Atlantic Council.

“Because the United States is already importing so little from Russia,” he said.

Still, revoking Russia’s “most-favored nation” status will allow President Biden to impose punitive tariffs on any remaining Russian imports, like fertilizer, wood, and aluminum.

Lipsky says Russia will be keeping pretty unfavorable company on trade: Cuba and North Korea.

“So for Russia to be placed in that very small group of international pariah states is an important move,” he said.

Strong support from Congress helps, said Gary Hufbauer at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“We don’t often get all 100 senators voting for anything. And they did vote for this,” he said.

He said it could help President Biden persuade allies in Western Europe and Asia to revoke Russia’s favorable trade status with them, too. 

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