Maine’s minimal trade with Russia, which fell sharply in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold but began recovering last year, is about to become even smaller with new sanctions announced by President Joe Biden Friday.
The state’s trade with Russia is less than 1 percent of its total imports and exports with all nations, so any sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine will not have major effects on the availability of goods. But trade experts said new limits could further increase prices, including for oil, the dominant commodity traded between Maine and Russia.
The state imported $43.3 million in petroleum oils from Russia in 2021, up from a pandemic falloff of $7.3 million in 2020 and up from the pre-pandemic level of $32.2 million in 2019, according to WISERTrade and U.S. Census Bureau data. Oil accounted for nearly all of the $45.8 million in Russian goods sent to Maine last year.
The import ban is expected to cut those off, but those imports were just below 2 percent of the almost $2.3 billion in oil Maine imported in 2021. That is well below the 8 percent of oil and refined products sent to the U.S. by Russia in 2021, according to federal data. Russian oil is most important in Hawaii, Alaska and the West Coast.
Biden banned imports of oil, gas and coal products from Russia on Tuesday. He broadened the import ban on Friday to seafood, vodka and diamonds and said he will revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” trading status, which means it traded on the most favorable terms.
Gov. Janet Mills asked regulators to ban Russian vodka sales in Maine last week, following the lead of other states, including New Hampshire. Regulators delisted Russian-made spirits on Tuesday, a ban that will be largely symbolic, since only two brands of Russian vodka have been recently sold here.
The new sanctions could also affect Maine consumers because in 2021 the state imported more than $630,000 in crabs and fish, including pollock and cod. Any shortages may cause price increases.
Maine’s lobster and other fishing industries will not be affected by the increased tension because Russia has prohibited U.S. seafood imports since 2014 in reaction to sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies following Russia’s 2014 invasion of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine.
Maine’s imports from Russia have been irregular, but they fell sharply early in the pandemic from $22.4 million in 2019 to $10.5 million in 2020 before rebounding in 2021. Other than oil, nitrogen fertilizers, crustaceans and fish, iron alloys and titanium topped the list of Russian imports.
Exports from Maine to Russia are small at $1.2 million in 2021. Medical instruments topped the list at nearly $200,000 in value, followed by electrical machines, paper packaging, vehicle parts and accessories and live animals. The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, which breeds mice for research, said it is “currently not fulfilling orders for mice and services from institutions in Russia.”
Trade data since the war began is not yet available to see the results of the sanctions.