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U.S. & EU Expand Sanctions against Russia, but Spare Trade for Now

Posted March 17, 2014

Following events in Crimean region of Ukraine this weekend, the United States and European Union have imposed new sanctions, but stopped short of measures that would directly impact trade.

President Barack Obama said in a press conference that Washington stood “ready to impose further sanctions” depending on whether Russia escalated or de-escalated the situation in Ukraine.

For now, the U.S. and EU are targeting a number of individuals, including Russian politicians and senior policymakers with travel bans and asset freezes.

“Our current focus is to identify these individuals and target their personal assets, but not companies that they may manage on behalf of the Russian state,” the White House said.

While trade sanctions would hurt both sides, Russia would likely suffer much more than the West. The European Union’s exports to Russia account for 1% of EU gross domestic product, whereas Russian exports to the EU are worth nearly 15% of Russian GDP. Net trade between Russia and the U.S. was $38.1 billion in 2013, according to US Chamber of Commerce data. The U.S. exported $11.26 billion to Russia, and imported $26.96 billion worth of goods (70% being oil and petroleum products).

Through their umbrella group, the Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association (CERBA), Canadian companies that do business in Russia have cautioned the Harper government to exercise restraint in its response to the situation. “We would hope for a balanced and measured response from our government that factors in the interests of Canadian businesses active in Russia,” said CERBA chairman Lou Naumovski.

CERBA members include more than 150 companies with over $5 billion dollars of direct investments in both countries and bi-lateral trade totaling over $3 billion dollars annually.