Congress makes Russia a pariah on trade and increases pressure on Putin

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(Bloomberg) – The US Congress voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to scrap Russia’s normal trading status with the United States and ban imports of its gas, oil and coal, adding to economic pressure. by the United States and its allies to punish the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

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The trade laws put Russia and Belarus, which have hosted Russian troops, in the same category as pariah states like North Korea and Cuba. The separate fossil fuel ban bill codifies an executive action taken by President Joe Biden last month.

Both measures have enjoyed broad bipartisan support and are now heading to Biden’s office for his expected signature.

“This is another tightening of the noose around Vladimir Putin and we will make it pay,” Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, co-author of the trade bill, said before the vote.

Rep. Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas, said the legislation “will prevent US dollars from funding Putin’s bloodshed.”

The trade bill allows the United States to impose significant tariff increases on goods from Russia and Belarus. Under the legislation, tariffs on iron and certain steel products could rise from 0% to 20%. Plywood could face a 50% tax and some jet engines could have 35% import taxes, according to a Senate Democratic aide. Biden has already banned iconic Russian products like vodka, seafood and industrial diamonds.

It passed the Senate in a rare 100-0 roll call vote. The House cleared it 420-3, with Republicans Matt Gaetz of Florida, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky the only no.

The Senate also passed the oil ban unanimously. In the House, Gaetz, Greene and Massie were joined in voting against by Republicans Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Chip Roy of Texas, as well as Democrats Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Cori Bush of Missouri.

When crude oil and all other petroleum products are included, such as unfinished fuel oil that can be used to produce gasoline and diesel, Russia accounted for about 8% of U.S. oil imports in 2021, according to Energy. Information Administration.

The commerce bill was delayed in the Senate for about a week due to a blockage by Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, over the wording of an expansion of the Global Accountability Act. Magnitsky human rights, which was included in the bill. Other squabbles between senators also delayed action. Lawmakers finally reached an agreement after weeks of haggling.

This provision would authorize the Biden administration to impose new sanctions on Russian officials for human rights violations. Paul wanted the legislation, which is named after a Russian lawyer who died in custody after investigating tax evasion, to be more specific about the types of transgressions that would trigger penalties. He agreed to stop blocking the bill after reaching a compromise with Senate leaders.

An early version of the bill passed the House in March, but revisions in the Senate meant the legislation again had to clear the chamber to go to Biden.

In mid-March, a quarter of the 164 members of the World Trade Organization – collectively representing 58% of the world’s gross domestic product – were about to stop treating Russia as a so-called most favored nation according to the WTO rules.

Besides the United States, the list includes the 27 members of the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea and Australia.

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