U.S. House backs removal of 'most-favored' trade status for Russia, Belarus
The U.S. House of Representatives backed legislation on Thursday to remove "most favoured nation" trade status for Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine, paving the way for higher tariffs on imports from the countries.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 424-8 in favour of removing Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status, the latest congressional effort to put economic pressure on Moscow.
To become law, the measure must also pass the Senate. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it would move through the Senate quickly, after approval by the House.
The move to revoke Russia's status at the World Trade Organization is being coordinated with similar efforts by other G7 democracies. It would automatically raise U.S. tariffs to non-WTO rates for imports from Russia and it authorizes U.S. President Joe Biden to proclaim higher tariff rates on products from both Russia and Belarus.
The House vote took place a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made an emotional speech to Congress - via videolink - appealing for more support. Many lawmakers wore Ukrainian flag pins as they voted.
The measure also would expand the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, easing the imposition of sanctions on Russian officials for human rights violations.
All eight "no" votes came from Republicans, including Representative Glenn Grothman who said the Magnitsky provision gave too much power to the president.
Republican Representative Victoria Spartz, the only Ukrainian-born member of Congress, said it was important that close Russian ally Belarus was included. "We cannot create a loophole where Putin is going to use Belarus to funnel money through them," she said.