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Biden signs bill to suspend normal trade status with Russia


Move raises duties on metal imports from Russia

Legislation allows US to apply higher duties until 2024

  • Author
  • Nick Lazzaro
  • Editor
  • Valarie Jackson
  • Commodity
  • Metals
  • Tags
  • Cobalt Nickel Sulfate Nickel United States

US President Joe Biden signed a bill late April 8 to suspend normal trade relations with Russia, a move which will increase duties at varying rates on US metal products and other imports from Russia.

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Congress previously passed the legislation to revoke Russia's trade status April 7 after a vote was delayed in the Senate for several weeks. Biden initially introduced the trade action March 11 to escalate pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin for the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Normal trade relations, also known as "most-favored-nation" trade status, also was revoked from Belarus for their role in aiding Russia's war efforts in Ukraine.

The bill authorizes the president to enforce higher duty rates on applicable products from Russia and Belarus until January 2024, and the president may restore normal trade status with either country pending permission from Congress.

Along with the trade-status suspension, Biden also signed separate legislation to ban the importation of energy products from Russia.

The US Harmonized Tariff Schedule, compiled by the US International Trade Commission, outlines separate duty rates for favored trade partners (column 1 duties) and non-favored trade partners (column 2 duties).

The revocation of MFN status would subject US imports from Russia and Belarus to column 2 duties.

For metals, duties on US imports from Russia and Belarus could be raised up to 18.5% for most unwrought aluminum, 100% for magnesium, 45% for cobalt alloys, 25% for nickel sulfate, and 20% for finished steel, according to the tariff schedule.

US metal imports from Russia down since 2017

The US Aluminum Association said the US has reduced its exposure to aluminum imports from Russia in recent years.

"The US has historically imported significant volumes of primary unwrought aluminum from Russia," the association told S&P Global Commodity Insights April 11. "With respect to 7606 (HS code for aluminum plate, sheet) and 7607 (aluminum foil), the Aluminum Association and certain of its members have been involved in recent years in unfair trade cases involving imports from a variety of countries, including imports from Russia."

The US aluminum industry has also diversified away from Russian primary aluminum since previous sanctions were temporarily applied in 2018, the trade group said, adding that the Russian share of US aluminum supply has declined to 5.5% from 13.5% in 2017.

The US imported 242,480 mt of aluminum from Russia in 2021 out of 5.56 million mt of total imports, according to US Commerce Department data. Imports from Russia in 2021 fell from 772,809 mt in 2017.

Similarly, steel imports from Russia fell to 1.47 million mt in 2021 from 2.87 million mt in 2017. However, steel shipments to the US from Russia have risen from 977,079 mt in 2019.