China’s crude imports from Iran more than double
China’s crude imports from Iran more than double
The jump means Iran’s biggest oil customer and trade partner has very little room to boost shipments from the Islamic Republic further. A breakthrough agreement last month between Tehran and world powers allows the OPEC member to keep exports at the current reduced levels of about 1 million barrels per day (bpd), less than half the pre-sanctions level.
The deal also exempts buyers of Iranian oil, most of whom are based in Asia, from continually reducing purchases to earn a six-monthly waiver granted by the United States from sanctions.
However, China’s imports for the first 11 months are down just 0.6 percent from a year ago, leaving it with little scope for importing more without the risk of breaching sanctions.
In contrast, Iran’s second-biggest customer India has a lot more room to buy more and still win the next waiver from US sanctions because of the steep cuts made in imports earlier in the year.
The US State Department extended a six-month Iranian sanctions’ waiver at the end of November to China, India, South Korea and other countries for reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year.
China, Iran’s largest oil client, imported 538,513 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from the Islamic nation last month, up 25.9 percent versus the same month last year, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday.
The November imports more than double October’s 249,848 bpd, a 40-month low after one regular buyer skipped imports for maintenance.
For the first 11 months, China’s Iranian oil imports were down 0.6 percent year-on-year at 19.29 million tons, or 421,520 bpd, customs data showed.
Chinese oil officials estimated late last year that domestic refiners would cut their Iran shipments at least 5 percent this year from 21.92 million tons, or an average 438,450 bpd for 2012, putting its maximum target for 2013 at around 416,400 bpd.
But that target did not include imports by Dragon Aromatics, an independent petrochemicals firm that started taking in condensate, a very light crude oil, from Iran around the middle of the year to feed its newly started condensate splitter.
The firm, which has an annual import quota of four million tons of condensate, has brought in an average of 66,000 bpd of Iranian South Pars condensate in recent months, traders say.
Iran and six world powers clinched a deal in late November to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for initial sanctions relief, signaling the start of a game-changing rapprochement that would reduce the risk of a wider Middle East war.
China’s total crude imports in November rose 0.8 percent from a year earlier to 5.73 million bpd.
Merkel seeks united front with China amid Trump trade fears
- Merkel seeks common ground to ward off trade war
- Plans complicated by US policy moves
Chancellor Angela Merkel visits China on Thursday, seeking to close ranks with the world’s biggest exporting nation as US President Donald Trump shakes up explosive issues from trade to Iran’s nuclear deal.
Finding a common strategy to ward off a trade war and keep markets open will be Merkel’s priority when she meets with President Xi Jinping, as Washington brandishes the threat of imposing punitive tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.
“Both countries are in agreement that open markets and rules-based world trade are necessary. That’s the main focus of this trip,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said in Berlin on Friday.
But closing ranks with Beijing against Washington risks being complicated by Saturday’s deal between China and the US to hold off tit-for-tat trade measures.
China’s economic health can only benefit Germany as the Asian giant is a big buyer of Made in Germany. But a deal between the US and China effectively leaves Berlin as the main target of Trump’s campaign against foreign imports that he claims harm US national security.
The US leader had already singled Germany out for criticism, saying it had “taken advantage” of the US by spending less than Washington on NATO.
Underlining what is at stake, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the US-China deal may come “at the expense of Europe if Europe is not capable of showing a firm hand.”
Nevertheless, Merkel can look to her carefully nurtured relationship with China over her 12 years as chancellor.
No Western leader has visited Beijing as often as Merkel, who will be undertaking her eleventh trip to the country.
In China, she is viewed not only as the main point of contact for Europe, but, crucially, also as a reliable interlocutor — an antithesis of the mercurial Trump.
Devoting her weekly podcast to her visit, Merkel stressed that Beijing and Berlin “are both committed to the rules of the WTO” (World Trade Organization) and want to “strengthen multilateralism.”
But she also underlined that she will press home Germany’s longstanding quest for reciprocity in market access as well as the respect of intellectual property.
Ahead of her visit, Beijing fired off a rare salvo of criticism.
China’s envoy to Germany, Shi Mingde, pointed to a “protectionist trend in Germany,” as he complained about toughened rules protecting German companies from foreign takeovers.
Only 0.3 percent of foreign investors in Germany stem from China while German firms have put in €80 billion in the Asian giant over the last three decades, he told Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
“Economic exchange cannot work as a one-way street,” he warned.
Meanwhile, looming over the battle on the trade front is another equally thorny issue — the historic Iran nuclear deal, which risks falling apart after Trump pulled the US out.
Tehran has demanded that Europe keeps the deal going by continuing economic cooperation, but the US has warned European firms of sanctions if they fail to pull out of Iran.
Merkel “hopes that China can help save the atomic deal that the US has unilaterally ditched,” said Die Welt daily.
“Because only the giant emerging economy can buy enough raw materials from Iran to give the Mullah regime an incentive to at least officially continue to not build a nuclear weapon.”