Accord on revised Pacific Rim trade pact stalled

Leaders and their spouses pose for a family photo ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders gala dinner in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 10, 2017. (AFP / Vietnam News Agency)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Accord on revised Pacific Rim trade pact stalled

DANANG, Vietnam: Talks on a Pacific Rim trade pact abandoned by US President Donald Trump appeared to have stalled Friday as Canada balked at a basic agreement worked out in ministerial-level talks hours before.
Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in January. Leaders of the 11 countries remaining in the TPP had been due to meet and endorse a deal worked out in last-minute talks overnight.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that the 11 leaders had to postpone their meeting on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam.
“It was said that it is not at a stage where (the agreement) can be confirmed at the summit level,” said Abe, who was to co-chair the meeting. He made the comments to Japanese reporters after meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, who stayed away from the planned TPP leaders’ gathering while most other leaders showed up.
There was no immediate word from Canada on its stance. However, Trudeau had said days earlier that Canada would not be rushed into an agreement.
The chances for a deal by the time the summit ends on Saturday were unclear.
Earlier in the day, officials from Japan and some other countries expressed differing opinions on whether an “agreement in principle” had been reached.
The TPP member countries are trying to find a way forward without the US, the biggest economy and, before Trump took office, one of its most assertive supporters. Trump has said he prefers country-to-country deals and is seeking to renegotiate several major trade agreements to, as he says, “put America first.”
Vietnamese officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Trump reiterated his markedly different stance on trade before the 21-member APEC summit convened late Friday with a gala banquet.
The US president told an APEC business conference that “We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore.” He lambasted the World Trade Organization and other trade forums as unfair to the United States and reiterated his preference for bilateral trade deals, saying “I am always going to put America first.”
Trump said he would not enter into large trade agreements, alluding to US involvement in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the TPP.
In contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the same group that nations need to stay committed to economic openness or risk being left behind.
The Chinese president drew loud applause when he urged support for the “multilateral trading regime” and progress toward a free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific.
APEC operates by consensus and customarily issues nonbinding statements. TPP commitments would eventually be ratified and enforced by its members.
But even talks this week on a declaration to cap the APEC summit had to be extended for an extra half day as ministers haggled over wording. It’s unclear what the exact sticking points were, but officials have alluded to differences over the unequal impact more open trade has had on workers and concerns over automation in manufacturing that could leave many millions in a wide array of industries with no work to do.
As a developing country with a fast-growing export sector, this year’s host country, Vietnam, has a strong interest in open trade and access for its exports to consumers in the West. The summit is an occasion for its leaders to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to foreign investment and trade. Danang, Vietnam’s third largest city, is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and smaller hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.
APEC’s members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.


OPEC, Russia rebuff Trump’s call for immediate boost to oil output

Updated 23 September 2018
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OPEC, Russia rebuff Trump’s call for immediate boost to oil output

ALGIERS: OPEC’s leader Saudi Arabia and its biggest oil-producer ally outside the group, Russia, ruled out on Sunday any immediate, additional increase in crude output, effectively rebuffing US President Donald Trump’s calls for action to cool the market.
“I do not influence prices,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih told reporters as OPEC and non-OPEC energy ministers gathered in Algiers for a meeting that ended with no formal recommendation for any additional supply boost.
Benchmark Brent oil reached $80 a barrel this month, prompting Trump to reiterate on Thursday his demand that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries lower prices.
The price rally mainly stemmed from a decline in oil exports from OPEC member Iran due to fresh US sanctions.
“We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices! We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Falih said Saudi Arabia had spare capacity to increase oil output but no such move was needed at the moment.
“My information is that the markets are adequately supplied. I don’t know of any refiner in the world who is looking for oil and is not able to get it,” Falih said.
However, he signalled Saudi Arabia stood ready to increase supply if Iran’s output fell: “Whatever takes place between now and the end of the year in terms of supply changes will be addressed.”
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said no immediate output increase was necessary, although he believed a trade war between China and the United States as well as US sanctions on Iran were creating new challenges for oil markets.
Oman’s Oil Minister Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Rumhy and Kuwaiti counterpart Bakhit Al-Rashidi told reporters after Sunday’s talks that producers had agreed they needed to focus on reaching 100 percent compliance with production cuts agreed in June.
That effectively means compensating for falling Iranian production. Al-Rumhy said the exact mechanism for doing so had not been discussed.
The statement from Trump, meanwhile, was not his first criticism of OPEC.
Higher gasoline prices for US consumers could create a political headache for Republican Trump before mid-term congressional elections in November.
Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, has accused Trump of orchestrating the oil price rally by imposing sanctions on Tehran and accused its regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia of bowing to US pressure.
On Sunday, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said Trump’s tweet “was the biggest insult to Washington’s allies in the Middle East.”
OPEC OUTPUT FALLS AGAIN
Seeking to reverse a downturn in oil prices that began in 2014, OPEC, Russia and other allies decided in late 2016 to reduce supply by some 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd).
In June this year, however, after months of cutting by more than their pact had called for, largely due to involuntary reductions from Venezuela and other producers, they agreed to boost output by returning to 100 percent compliance.
That equates to an increase of about 1 million bpd, but latest data show they are some way from achieving that target.
In August, OPEC and its allies cut production by 600,000 bpd more than their pact required, mainly as a result of falling output in Iran as customers in Europe and Asia reduced purchases ahead of the US sanctions deadline.
Iran told OPEC its production had been steady in August at 3.8 million bpd. OPEC’s own estimates, according to its secondary sources such as researchers and ship-trackers, put Iranian output at 3.58 million bpd.
Falih said returning to 100 percent compliance was the main objective and should be achieved in the next two-three months.
Although he refrained from specifying how that could be done, Saudi Arabia is the only oil producer with significant spare capacity.
“We have the consensus that we need to offset reductions and achieve 100 percent compliance, which means we can produce significantly more than we are producing today if there is demand,” Falih said.
“The biggest issue is not with the producing countries, it’s with the refiners, it’s with the demand. We in Saudi Arabia have not seen demand for any additional barrel that we did not produce.”
OPEC also decided on Sunday to adjust the dates of its next meeting to Dec. 6-7 from the earlier-agreed Dec. 3.
The joint OPEC/non-OPEC ministerial monitoring committee will next meet on Nov. 11 in Abu Dhabi.