Washington: The United States and its allies moved Friday to end normal trade relations with Russia, as President Joe Biden vowed the West would make Vladimir Putin “pay the price” for his invasion of Ukraine.
Biden announced the new step, which would enable Western nations to inflict steep tariff hikes on Russian goods, in coordination with NATO allies, the Group of Seven and the European Union.
Washington and Brussels also said they would cut off exports of luxury goods to Russia in what EU chief Ursula von der Leyen described as a “direct blow to the Russian elite.”
Biden warned in his speech at the White House that “Putin must pay the price” as the “aggressor” in the war with its ex-Soviet neighbor.
US lawmakers –who would have the final say– have already indicated they support stripping Russia of the preferential status that ensures equal treatment between international trade partners.
In a statement issued in Berlin, G7 leaders confirmed they would each “endeavor” to take action to deny Russia favored trade status.
“The United States and our allies and partners continue in lockstep to ramp up the economic pressures on Putin and to further isolate Russia on the global stage,” Biden said.
Putin “cannot pursue a war that threatens the very foundation of international peace and stability and then ask for help from the international community.”
A key principle of the World Trade Organization, the so-called most favored nation status known in the United States as permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), requires countries to guarantee one another equal tariff and regulatory treatment.
Stripping Moscow of the designation, granted in December 2012, would allow Biden to impose steep tariffs on Russian goods or restrict imports.
The president also announced a ban on imports of Russian vodka, diamonds and seafood into the United States.
Later in the day, the US Treasury announced a raft of new sanctions targeting “elites and business executives who are associates and facilitators of the Russian regime.”
These include family members of Putin’s spokesmen, board members of sanctioned bank VTB and 12 members of the lower house of the Russian parliament.
The latest trade sanctions cap several rounds of measures intended to sever Russia’s economic and financial ties with the rest of the world over its invasion of Ukraine.
They have included banning Russian oil imports, seizing the assets of billionaires tied to Putin, and freezing the nation’s stockpile of cash.
Together, the moves have already pushed Moscow to the brink of a debt default.
The steps have also caused prices for key commodities, like gasoline and wheat, to soar, harming US consumers already facing the highest inflation in four decades.