U.S. Bans Russian Seafood, Alcohol in Downgrade of Russia's Trade Status

The United States will join the European Union and Group of Seven (G7) countries in downgrading Russia's "most favored nation" trade status, President Joe Biden announced Friday.

As part of a new executive order from Biden, the administration will also ban alcohol, seafood and diamonds from Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, which is currently in its third week.

The move is part of a series of actions by the U.S. and Western nations to chip away at Russia's economy through sanctions and bans. So far, these sanctions have shown negative impacts on Russia's economy, with Fitch Ratings slashing the country's credit rating to "junk status" and the ruble dramatically falling in value. However, the impact of the conflict has also been felt in the U.S., with gas prices reaching record highs.

"The free world is coming together to confront Putin," Biden said during his announcement of the new measures, according to the Associated Press.

The "most favored nation" status gives a country the best possible trade terms, such as lower tariffs, fewer trade barriers and high or no import quotas, according to The Balance. Removing this status will subsequently remove all of these benefits.

The G7 nations announced their intention to deny Russia this status earlier Friday in a statement. The group is comprised of some of the world's largest democracies—the U.S., Japan, Canada, France, Italy, the U.K. and Germany.

In the statement, the nations said they "welcome the ongoing preparation of a statement by a broad coalition" of World Trade Organization members, including the G7, in which they will announce their downgrade of Russia's trading status.

The ban on Russian seafood has also seen support from organizations like Oceana, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the world's oceans, due to its potential environmental impacts and effects on the U.S. fishing industry.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Beth Lowell, Oceana's acting vice president for the U.S., said Russian fisheries have "limited monitoring and environmental oversight, yet the U.S. imported over $1.2 billion worth of Russian seafood last year."

Lowell added that this imported Russian seafood has forced U.S. fishers to "compete in the marketplace over similar seafood products" like salmon, pollock, snow crab and king crab, which are caught by fisheries in Alaska.

She also stressed the importance of the U.S. making sure to track where its seafood is coming from, as sometimes Russian-caught seafood is sent to places like China for processing before being sent to the U.S.

"Traceability for all seafood will ensure that Russia has no place in the U.S. seafood supply chain, Russian seafood products will not reach American plates and American dollars will not support this needless war," Lowell said.

The G7 statement said that its member nations are ready to impose more restrictions on "key goods and technologies" from Russia, "which aim at denying Russia revenues and at ensuring that our citizens are not underwriting President Putin's war, consistent with national processes." The group also said it will continue to pressure Russian oligarchs.

"The elites who sustain Putin's war machine should no longer be able to reap the gains of this system, squandering the resources of the Russian people," the statement said.

Though an official ban from the U.S. on Russian alcohol was not in place yet, some Americans had already been protesting by not drinking it. Newsweek previously reported that officials in a New York town poured out vodka in solidarity with Ukraine, joining a boycott that some bar and restaurant owners were already taking part in. However, some of these vodka companies, while importing from Russia, are American-owned.

Russia will now join Cuba and North Korea as the only countries that don't have "most favored nation" trade status with the U.S.

Follow Newsweek's live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Update 03/11/22 4:40 p.m. ET: This story was updated to include Oceana's statement.

Joe Biden Announces Economic Actions Against Russia
U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the United States will join with the European Union and the Group of Seven (G7) nations to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" status over its invasion of Ukraine. Above, Biden announces the new economic actions in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 11 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images