Before the Second World War, U.S. trade with the Soviet Union involved the U.S. export of machinery and equipment, and the import of minerals and animal products. Imports were normally one-fourth or one third of the volume of exports. U.S. exports peaked in 1930 and 1931 with exports of $114 million and $104 million. U.S. exports to the Soviet Union never represented more than 2% of total U.S. exports, whereas Soviet imports from the United States at times constituted some 25% of total imports. With political recognition in 1933 came hopes of a dramatic upsurge in trade, but the failure to settle the debts and claims questions resulted in the failure of the U.S. Export-Import Bank to provide credits to the U.S.S.R. as it was intended to do. The Johnson Debt Default Act of 19343 made it illegal for private persons or institutions in the United States to extend loans to the U.S.S.R., since it was held to be in default in its obligations to the United States.
With the advent of the Cold War soon after the Second World War and the failure of the two sides to settle the lend-lease debts, the United States imposed a policy of denying its high technology products to the U.S.S.R. via an embargo list and the Export Control Act of 1948. This net was extended through the Coordinating Committee, or COCOM, to NATO allies. In 1951, Congress abrogated most-favored nation treatment for the U.S.S.R. and prohibited the importation of several kinds of fur from the U.S.S.R., and in 1954 it enacted laws banning the export to the U.S.S.R. of military suppliers, weapons, and related technology. At this time, the sale to the U.S.S.R. of agricultural commodities for local currency on long term credit was prohibited.
"U.S.-Soviet Trade: Problems and Prospects,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 27
, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol27/iss3/7