US, Allies Say ‘Nyet’ to Russian Seafood, Vodka as Ukraine Invasion Continues
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Friday the United States and other allies will move to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status in response to its unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine, with the U.S. specifically targeting Russian imports such as vodka, seafood and gemstones.
In remarks from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Biden said the coordinated effort would deal “another crushing blow to the Russian economy.”
During his brief remarks, Biden lauded both the Democratic and Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, but also specifically thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who agreed to hold off on a bill ending normal trade relations with Russia until he could get U.S. allies to join in the effort.
As a result, he said, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Union will all be announcing the end of most favored nation trade status with Russia and other steps “to squeeze [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and hold more people more accountable for his aggression against Ukraine.”
“Unity among our allies is critically important,” the president said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Friday that the vote “to formalize this revocation” will take place when the House returns next week.
“It is our hope that it will receive a strong, bipartisan vote,” she said.
Most favored nation trade status, what we in the U.S. also call “permanent normal trade relations,” is essentially an agreement that two nations will trade under the most favorable terms — low tariffs, few barriers to trade and at the highest possible volume of imports allowed.
In another coordinated effort, the G7 group of democratic, industrialized nations will seek to deny Russia the ability to borrow from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other leading multinational institutions.
At the same time, the nations that comprise the G7 will add new names to the list of Russian oligarchs and their families being targeted with sanctions.
“Putin is an aggressor,” Biden said. “Putin must pay the price for his actions.”
“Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked war is an attack on the Ukrainian people and an attack on democracy, and the House remains steadfast in our commitment to partnering with President Biden and our allies to level swift, severe punishment and stand with the Ukrainian people,” she said.
“Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., as well as Ways and Means Chairman Richie Neal, D-Mass., and Ranking Member Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the House is already ready with legislation to revoke PNTR from Russia in coordination with the president and our allies.
“This measure builds on the bipartisan package the House passed on Wednesday that bans Russian oil and energy products and takes further steps to isolate Russia in the world for its brutal assault on Ukraine,” Pelosi said.
In an unrelated move, White & Case, the international law firm that is also one of Washington’s biggest law employers, announced Friday it is closing its Moscow office.
In a statement it said, “We are horrified by the terrible events taking place in Ukraine and condemn Russia’s unjustified invasion. White & Case stands with the people of Ukraine.
“Our review of Russian and Belarusian client activity is ongoing, and goes beyond our requirements to comply with sanctions,” the statement continued. “We are ceasing all representations of Russian and Belarusian state and state-owned entities in accordance with our professional responsibilities, and not accepting any new mandates from Russian and Belarusian state and state-owned entities.
“After careful consideration, we have decided to close our Moscow office. We will continue to support our people there, and their safety and wellbeing remains our priority. We are in the process of winding down our operations in Russia and are committed to an orderly transition,” the firm said.
It also said its lawyers are providing pro bono services to support Ukrainian refugees in several jurisdictions. This includes a legal aid hotline, employment advice, visa application assistance and legal guidance to multiple nonprofit organizations.
White & Case also announced that it has made a $1 million donation to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, and is matching donations made by its employees to qualifying relief organizations.
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