The US is preparing to impose a 200pc tariff on Russian-made aluminium as soon as this week to keep pressure on Moscow as the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine nears, according to people familiar with the situation.
The move has been contemplated for months, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
The people added that the US is also targeting the Russian metal because Moscow has been dumping aluminium on the US market and harming American companies.
President Joe Biden has yet to give the official go-ahead for the action, and there have been concerns in the administration about collateral damage on US industries, including aerospace and autos.
Such steep tariffs would effectively end US imports of the metal from Russia, the world’s second-largest producer of the metal. While Russia imports have traditionally accounted for 10pc of total US aluminium imports, the amount has dropped to just more than 3pc, according to US trade data.
The latest escalation of pressure on Moscow comes after Washington has unleashed unprecedented levels of sanctions to punish and isolate President Vladimir Putin’s government.
The potential for punitive tariffs, an outright ban or sanctioning of the company that produces the nation’s metal worried domestic buyers who didn’t want to be stuck with the material. But imports rose to 11,600 tons in November and nearly 11,000 tons in December.
January saw imports of 9,700 tons of aluminium from Russia.
Rusal shares in Moscow declined 1pc. Aluminium futures traded on the London Metal Exchange pared an early 2.2pc loss after the news, trading 1.1pc lower as of 9:42am New York time. Russia is one of the top producers of the metal, and tariffs on its supply will likely tighten the global market and help boost prices.
Rusal, the only Russian aluminium producer, declined to comment immediately.
The White House National Security Council didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Russia, the world’s largest producer outside of China, is a significant source of material for the US market and buyers range from construction firms to carmakers.