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Senate Votes to Strip Russia of Trade Status, House to Follow

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© Bloomberg. A worker operates a binding machine as lengths of steel rod are secured ready for shipping at the Oskol electrometallurgical plant, operated by Metalloinvest Holding Co., in Stary Oskol, Russia, on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. Iron ore prices rebounded from last week’s pandemic-driven losses on bets the impact of a new coronavirus variant may not be as severe as initially feared.
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(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to strip normal trade relation status from Russia and Belarus, sending the White House-backed legislation to the House for a vote expected later Thursday. 

The trade legislation, passed on a rare 100-0 vote, would put Russia and Belarus in the same category as pariah states such as North Korea and Cuba, and adds to the growing list of economic barriers erected by the U.S. and its allies to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government over the assault on Ukraine. The bill allows the U.S. to impose large tariff increases on goods from Russia and Belarus.

Under the legislation, the tariffs on iron and some steel products could be raised to 20% from 0%. Plywood could face a 50% levy and some reaction engines could have import taxes of 35%, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

“No nation whose military is committing war crimes deserves free trade status with the United States,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor Thursday morning.

President Joe Biden last month already banned imports of signature Russian products including oil, gas, vodka, seafood and industrial diamonds.

The trade bill was delayed in the Senate for about a week because of a hold up from Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, about the wording of an expansion of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was embedded in the bill. Other squabbles among senators also delayed the bill. Lawmakers ultimately reached a deal after weeks of haggling.

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

The House overwhelmingly passed the trade measure earlier in March, but revisions in the Senate mean the legislation will need to go back to the House for another vote. 

All House lawmakers except for eight Republicans voted to sever trade ties with Russia and Belarus, which has hosted some of the Russian troops who invaded Ukraine. 

By mid-March, a quarter of the World Trade Organization’s 164 members — collectively representing 58% of the global gross domestic product — were poised to stop treating Russia as a so-called most-favored-nation under WTO rules. 

Besides the U.S., the list includes the European Union’s 27 members, Japan, the U.K., Canada, South Korea and Australia.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

Senate Votes to Strip Russia of Trade Status, House to Follow

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