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U.S. Rightly Takes Trade Action on Russian Imports

President Biden walks with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a trip to Kyiv on Monday. Photo courtesy White House

On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden announced his administration is placing tariffs on a number of metals products from Russia.

The White House on Friday announced increased tariffs on a number of Russian imports, including metals, as part of the larger international effort to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.

The United States will place higher tariffs on “more than 100 Russian metals, minerals, and chemical products worth approximately $2.8 billion to Russia.” In addition, a tariff of 200% will be placed on aluminum products that were smelted or cast in Russia, part of a related effort “to counter harm on the domestic aluminum industry, which is being squeezed by energy costs as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said.

The sanctions announced on Friday are very much the right call, and the Biden administration should be commended for taking action against Russian aggression and defending U.S. industry and metal workers. Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said:

“The United States must do everything possible to ensure that we are not inadvertently underwriting Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine. But despite sanctions and other efforts targeting Russia’s economy, Russia continues to profit from metals exports, many of which are finding their way into the United States. Not only is this helping to fuel Russia’s brutal war effort and attacks on civilians, but it is undermining American workers and metals makers at the same time. We just cannot allow this to continue.”

United Steelworkers International President Tom Conway also praised the Biden administration for its decision, noting that Russian aluminum imports spiked by more than 50% over the past year. Meanwhile, increased energy prices stifled domestic production, contributing to the temporary idling of Century Aluminum’s Kentucky smelter — the last high purity aluminum facility in a NATO country.

The trade action announced Friday is “a critical step forward,” Conway added.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said Friday that “these actions are carefully calibrated to put economic pressure on Russia while minimizing costs to U.S. consumers.”  

“As President Biden said in Poland earlier this week, the United States and our Allies and partners will hold accountable those who are responsible for this war,” Tai added. “Today’s actions demonstrate our resolve in doing precisely that.”

Along with the tariffs, the White House also announced that the Commerce Department will issue a number of export control actions, such as placing nearly 90 Russian and other companies — including some in China — on the Entity List for “engaging in sanction evasion and backfill activities in support of Russia’s defense sector.” This means that the listed companies will be prohibited from buying items like semiconductors that are made in the United States or with U.S. technology or software abroad.

Commerce also will take action to “align measures on industrial machinery, luxury goods, and other items, as well as issue new restrictions to prevent components found in Iranian drones from making their way onto the battlefield in Ukraine.”

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