Canada to raise tariffs on Russian imports, send rocket launchers to Ukraine

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Canada's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks at a news conference about the situation in Ukraine with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle

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March 3 (Reuters) - Canada will remove Russia and Belarus's most favored nation status as trading partners, and will provide additional lethal aid to Ukraine, including rocket launchers and hand grenades, Canadian officials said Thursday.

The only other country that does not enjoy the most favored nation status with Canada is North Korea, and goods from Russia and Belarus will be subjected to a 35% tariff when imported into Canada, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said.

"Simply put, this means that Russia and Belarus will no longer receive the benefits, particularly low tariffs that Canada offers to other countries that are fellow members of the WTO," Freeland told reporters at a news conference.

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Canada had about C$1.2 billion ($948 million) in imports from Russia and about C$23 million from Belarus in 2020, according to Statistics Canada.

The most favored nation principle is a part of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) rules, and it prevents WTO members from favoring any one country with benefits like lower tariffs without giving all members the same standard.

Moscow unleashed an all-out invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 that has prompted Canada, the European Union, United States and others to respond with strict financial sanctions on Russia. Sanctions have also been levied on Belarus, which has been used as a key staging point for the invasion.

Canada has closed airspace and ports to Russian vessels, sent lethal military aid to Ukraine, curbed oil imports, and asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe alleged war crimes by Russian forces.

"The G7 has already imposed the strongest sanctions ever inflicted on a major economy on Russia, and more will follow in the days to come," Freeland said.

Defense Minister Anita Anand, speaking at the same news conference, said Canada 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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada, along with close partners, was calling for the suspension of Russia from the global police agency Interpol.

"We're supporting this because we believe that international law enforcement cooperation depends on a collective commitment to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and mutual respect between Interpol members," he said at a separate event.

Thousands are reported to have died or been injured and more than a million people have fled Ukraine amid the biggest attack on a European state since 1945. read more

Canada also announced it would create two separate immigration streams for Ukrainians, one that allows for a temporary stay and one that is permanent.

"Canada is ready to welcome Ukrainians fleeing (Russian President) 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.

($1 = 1.2659 Canadian dollars)

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Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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