WASHINGTON (AP) – The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, preparing for President Joe Biden to enact higher tariffs on more products and further weaken the Russian economy in response to its military assault on Ukraine.
The United States has already taken steps to block the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, seafood, alcohol and diamonds. Thursday’s vote sets the stage to make it more expensive to import certain items in steel, aluminum and plywood, among other goods.
The House vote was 424-8. The Senate is expected to take the final step soon.
The broad trade action, which revokes Russia’s “most favored nation” status, was undertaken in coordination with the European Union and Group of Seven countries. The vote in the House came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Congress and US allies to do more to discourage Russia. ‘
“I ask to make sure that the Russians don’t get a single penny that they use to destroy people in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in a video speech to Congress.
In a joint declaration presenting the commercial invoice, Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., And Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said Zelenskyy’s remarks “only strengthened our resolve to further isolate and weaken” Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We must do everything possible to hold Putin responsible for senselessly attacking the Ukrainian people and undermining global stability,” said the two lawmakers. “The suspension of normal trade relations is an essential part of our effort to restore peace, save lives and defend democracy.”
World Trade Organization rules generally require each member to provide the lowest tariff rates to all WTO members. Russia joined the WTO in 2012, and Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation that year giving the president the authority to extend the status of normal trade relations with Russia. But countries can make exceptions to protect security interests.
However, the revocation would have a predominantly symbolic weight. Previous sanctions on Russian oil, gas and coal imports have already cut about 60% of US imports from the country, but some sectors of the economy may be affected.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said: “To date, both parties, Democrat and Republican, remain united in sending Putin a clear message: his inhuman violence against the Ukrainian people will have a paralyzing price “.
Tariffs make imports less competitive by increasing their costs for US companies. Timothy Brightbill, a Wiley Rein LLP partner who focuses on international trade law, said the effects on American consumers should be modest in most industries as companies can generally turn to other suppliers. He said it is important that US supply chains no longer cross Russia and that consumers understand this.
“Most American consumers would be happy to pay a little more to make sure their products and raw materials don’t support Russia and the Russian government,” Brightbill said.
He also said that Russia’s lifting of trade status sends a strong signal to China that the US will not tolerate hostile action against Taiwan.
Eight Republicans voted against the House measure, but speakers from both sides strongly supported its passage during the debate. Democratic Representatives. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Introduced an earlier version.
“What Putin is doing in Ukraine, bombing civilians, targeting children, … is outside the circle of civilized human behavior,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “He is committing war crimes and must be held accountable.”
Representative. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., Born in Ukraine, said the bill sends a message to Putin and his allies that “the West is serious.”
“They can’t just go and kill a group of people, destroy cities, kill women and children and then go back and do business as usual,” Sparta said.