House lawmakers have introduced legislation designed to end normal trade relations with Russia with measures that could significantly increase tariffs on imports from the country.
The legislation would end the U.S. policy of treating Russia as a so-called most favored nation, a key principle of the World Trade Organization that requires member countries to guarantee equal tariff and regulatory treatment to other members.
The legislation could boost import duties on Russian oil and oil products by two to four times, according to an analysis by Terence P. Stewart, a trade lawyer. For a range of products that are currently imported duty free, a 20% tariff could be added.
“The United States must use every tool at our disposal, short of armed conflict, to protect Ukraine’s independence,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D., Ore.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s trade subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
The legislation has a long way to go before becoming law. Nine other Democrats have signed on to the bill, including lead sponsor Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D., Texas). No Republican is sponsoring the bill yet.
Its actual impact on the U.S. economy would be limited because of a relatively small amount of bilateral trade between the U.S. and Russia.
According to the Census Bureau, Russia was the U.S.’s 23rd-largest trading partner in 2021 with $36.1 billion in two-way goods trade. Of that amount, $29.7 billion were imports of Russian products into the U.S., including fuels, precious metal and iron and steel.
The proposed bill also calls for removing Russia from the WTO, though the group currently doesn’t have a process to expel a member country. The WTO also requires a consensus among all members to make major decisions, making the passage of such a rule unlikely.