Canada is stripping Russia and Belarus of their status as “most favoured nation” trading partners in response to ongoing Russian attacks on Ukraine, which have forced at least one million people to flee the country.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the move means that all Russian and Belarusian exports to Canada will now be subjected to a 35-percent tariff.
The only other country in the world that does not enjoy “most favoured nation” status – a designation that is part of World Trade Organization rules – with Canada is North Korea, Freeland added.
“We are working closely with our partners and allies to encourage them to take the same step,” she said. “The economic costs of the Kremlin’s barbaric war are already high and they will continue to rise.”
The announcement comes amid a global push to impose economic restrictions on Russia for its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Russian troops seized control of the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson on Thursday as the assault entered its second week, while other cities, including Mariupol and Kharkiv, face intensifying attacks.
Canada is among several Western nations, including the United States, to issue sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and other members of Putin’s inner circle in recent days in response to the fighting.
The Canadian government also sanctioned Russia’s central bank, and on Wednesday it imposed restrictions on 10 people at Rosneft and Gazprom, two major Russian energy companies, in what it said was an effort to “put further pressure on Russia’s leadership” to end the war.
Data from Statistics Canada shows that in 2020, Canada had about $948m ($1.2bn Canadian) in imports from Russia and about $18m ($23m Canadian) from Belarus – a Russian ally that hosted troops for the country’s attack on Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand said on Thursday that Canada also intends to supply more lethal aid to Ukraine, including up to 4,500 M72 rocket launchers and up to 7,500 hand grenades from the Canadian Armed Forces’ existing stockpiles.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, a federal ministry, also announced it was introducing two new programmes through which Ukrainians will be able to come to the country on either a temporary or permanent basis.
Canada will waive “many of the normal visa requirements” for an unlimited number of Ukrainians seeking to come to Canada temporarily, the department said in a statement.
That fast-tracked programme will be open to applications in two weeks and will allow Ukrainians to work and stay in the country for up to two years.
“Canada is ready to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Vladimir Putin’s war, and there is no limit to the number of applications that we are going to be willing to accept,” Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said.