Bill would prohibit Missourians from doing business with Russia

(The Center Square) – Private and public entities receiving taxpayer funds in Missouri will be prohibited from entering contracts with Russia under a proposed bill introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 2913, sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, would prohibit any entity receiving public funds from Russia, Russian entities or any other country adversely occupying or attacking a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member, Ukraine, Finland, Sweden or Georgia.

“Our message today is clear,” Plocher said in a statement announcing the “Missouri Stands with Ukraine” program. “Missouri is open for business to those who value democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and self-determination. Brave Missourians – our servicemen and women – have served with honor to defend these values for over 160 years. These values made our country great and are the envy of the free world. History calls on every generation to defend freedom when necessary. We will do our small part in Missouri to lead the way.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe joined Plocher for the announcement at the state capitol and asked all Missouri retailers to consider voluntarily removing Russian-made or Russian-branded products from store shelves. Kehoe encouraged Missouri businesses to replace those items with products from the state’s “Buy Missouri” initiative.

“Missouri will do its part in this critical moment in history,” Kehoe said in a statement. “As the Buy Missouri advocate for our state, I always encourage Missourians to purchase locally and now it is more important than ever to do so. No matter how large the transaction, even if it’s a single product on a store shelf, the amplified effect of these decisions send a direct and meaningful message to the Russian government that Missourians support Ukraine.”

While many products use Russian branding, many aren’t products of the country. Smirnoff vodka, for instance, is produced and bottled in Plainfield, Illinois.

The U.S. imported $22.3 billion in goods from Russia in 2019, a 22.3% increase from 2009, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Russia ranked 20th on the list of largest suppliers of goods imported into the U.S. and the top categories were:

  • mineral fuels ($13 billion),
  • precious metal and stone (platinum) ($2.2 billion),
  • iron and steel ($1.4 billion),
  • fertilizers ($963 million),
  • inorganic chemicals ($763 million).

The U.S. imported $69 million in agricultural products from Russia in 2019. U.S. imports of services in the transportation, travel and financial services sectors from Russia totaled $1.8 billion that year.

“We in Missouri will do our small part to unite with the international community’s response Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine,” Plocher said. “We stand by the strong leadership (of) President Zelensky as the Ukrainian people fight fearlessly and heroically against the tyranny of Putin.”

Earlier this week, Missouri Republican Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick called for an emergency meeting of the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System and requested an end to all financial holdings in Russia. The U.S. Trade Representative reported the U.S. foreign direct investment in Russia was $14.4 billion in 2019, a 2.6% increase from 2018.

Featured photo of Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and House Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher courtesy of Missouri House Photographer Tim Bommel. 

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