Japan formally revokes Russia’s ‘most favored nation’ status

Mari Yamaguchi
Associated Press

Tokyo – Japan enacted a law on Wednesday formally revoking Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status over its invasion of Ukraine, as Tokyo steps up sanctions amid revelations of Russian military atrocities against civilians.

The stripping of Russia’s trade status is Japan’s latest move against Moscow and is part of a list of sanction measures Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced last month that also include a decision to expel eight Russian diplomats and trade officials.

Lawmakers stand up to approve the revision to a trade law to revoke Moscow's "most favored nation" trade status over its invasion of Ukraine, at the plenary session of the Upper House in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 20, 2022.

More: Events in the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, March 20, 2022

The revocation of Russia’s trade status by Japan’s Parliament, which takes effect later this month, and other sanctions collectively imposed by other countries, are expected to intensify pressure on Russia, but the moves could also prompt reprisals from Moscow.

The revocation of the trade status applies to tariffs on most imports from Russia, allowing Tokyo to impose higher duties on such products. The measure, however, does not affect imports of crude oil and liquefied natural gas, as well as palladium, a type of rare metal, which had no tariffs before Russia joined the World Trade Organization in 2012 and gained the most favored nation status.

It followed a decision along with the U.S. and other members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations to do so.

Wednesday’s parliamentary decision also included a revision of a foreign exchange law to prevent the transfer of virtual currency held by those subject to asset freezing.

People who left Russian Embassy arrive at the Haneda international airport, in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. On Wednesday, the eight Russian diplomats subject to expulsion were seen leaving the Russian embassy in Tokyo on a bus to the international airport, where they took a Russian government plane back to their country.

Japan is taking a greater role in the international effort against Russia because of its concerns about the impact of the invasion in East Asia, where China’s military has grown increasingly assertive.

Japan has also frozen the assets of hundreds of Russian individuals and groups and banned new investment and trade, including the export of goods that could be used for military purposes. Japan also announced plans to phase out imports of Russian coal.

On Wednesday, the eight Russian diplomats and officials subject to expulsion traveled from the Russian Embassy in Tokyo on a bus to the city’s Haneda International Airport, where they took a Russian government plane home. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno confirmed the departure of the eight and their families.

Japan has already faced reprisals from Russia. Moscow recently announced the suspension of talks on a peace treaty with Tokyo that included negotiations over Russian-held islands that the former Soviet Union seized from Japan at the end of World War II.

Japan’s trade with Russia is relatively small but has been growing swiftly in recent years, with exports in the fiscal year that ended in March up nearly 40% and imports up almost 70%.