President Biden Ends Russian Trade Relations, Oil Imports

President Joe Biden has signed legislation blocking Russian oil from being imported into the U.S. and severing all trade relations with the country over its invasion of Ukraine.

Biden signed two bills on Friday seeking to further isolate Russia economically as the U.S. maintains pressure on Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine. The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress, will work to strike an economic artery of energy-rich Russia while relegating the country to the same trade status as Myanmar, Cuba and North Korea.

While Biden had earlier signed an executive order banning imports of Russian oil and gas, House Resolution 6968 codifies the ban into law.

The second bill, H.R. 7108, goes further by suspending normal trade relations with Russia and its ally Belarus. The bill also directs the U.S. trade representative to take steps to suspend Russia's participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden today signed legislation blocking oil from being imported into the U.S. from Russia. Pictured, Biden answers a reporter's question earlier this week at a White House press conference. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"We know that it will not immediately end the fund of the Putin war machine, but it is a step in the right direction," Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett, a sponsor of the Russian oil ban, said on the House floor Wednesday.

He noted that it took "six long weeks" to approve the legislation after negotiations with the Senate. As the bills made their way through both chambers, some Republican lawmakers questioned the effectiveness of cutting off Russian oil imports, suggesting they could strengthen the country's ties to China while increasing gas prices.

Importing or exporting $5.6 trillion worth of goods and services in 2019, the U.S. is the world's largest trading nation, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Countries with a permanent normal trade relations designation have advantages in conducing commerce with the U.S., such as reduced tariffs. The U.S. has used the designation to influence countries on human rights issues.

The passage of the bills comes as U.S. officials have voiced growing alarm of alleged human rights violations committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Biden has called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to stand trial for war crimes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the U.S. and the European Union to ratchet up sanctions against Russia to end its invasion.

Democratic Representative Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, hailed the passage of both bills, saying in a statement they'll "hold the Putin regime responsible for its campaign of terror against the Ukrainian people."

Russia was the U.S.'s 40th largest export market in 2019, according to the USTR.

Figures from the Census Bureau show the U.S. does relatively little commerce compared to its largest trading partners that include Mexico, China, Canada and Japan. For instance, the U.S. imported $29.7 billion worth of goods from Russia in 2021. For Mexico, that number was $384.7 billion.

The most common U.S. exports to Russia in 2020 included mechanical appliances, chemicals, plastic and leather products as well as transportation equipment, according to a report from the U.S. Office of Technology Evaluation. U.S. imports from Russia included minerals, stone, glass and metals.

Russia is one of the world's largest crude oil producers following the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, according to the Energy Information Administration. In 2021, Russian imports accounted for 8 percent of all U.S. petroleum imports, according to the administration.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian government for comment.

Update 4/8/22, 8:45 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.