At Davos, Modi puts free trade first

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ranked protectionism among the three biggest challenges to global stability, along with climate change and terrorism. His Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau also linked protectionism with the other challenges the WEF perceives: Technological disruption, gender inequalities and climate change. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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At Davos, Modi puts free trade first

DAVOS: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off the opening of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos with a rallying cry for free trade and a warning against the threat posed by climate change.
In the first address at Davos by an Indian leader for two decades, he talked of the need for “creating a shared future in a fractured world” — with a warning that technological changes “can create fault lines that can inflict a very painful wound,” — ticking the box marked “fourth industrial revolution,” the core of the WEF cannon.
But he also sprang to the defense of global free trade and laissez-faire economics with a reference to the “forces of protectionism” in a thinly veiled hit at US President Donald Trump, who is expected to expound his “America First” message on Friday.
“The solution to this worrisome situation against globalization is not isolation. Its solution is in understanding and accepting change,” he said. Modi ranked protectionism among the three biggest challenges to global stability, along with climate change and terrorism.
Indeed, the specter of Trump — due on Friday — loomed everywhere on the first day. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada — one of the WEF’s favorites for a number of reasons, not least his physical and philosophical contrast to the American — took the opportunity of his special address to announce that Canada and 10 trade partners had signed an agreement to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade treaty Trump renounced as one of his first acts in office.
Like Modi, he too linked protectionism with the other challenges the WEF perceives: Technological disruption, gender inequalities and climate change.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg struck a note familiar with Saudi Arabian attendees at the WEF, when she called for a new global crackdown on global corruption.
“We need to see who is taking money, who is bribing others, and show that this is unacceptable in all our societies,” she said, proposing a #MeToo campaign against corruption, which she said was fueling terrorism and making it harder for emerging countries to develop their economies.
Middle East issues were on display at the meeting too, with behind-closed-doors sessions on the strategic condition of the region and geopolitics. Executives from Middle East corporations were involved in an apparently endless series of bilateral briefings.
Participants at the 48th annual meeting of the WEF had struggled through huge snow drifts and transport problems to get to the event.
At one stage, even the helicopters could not land — an event unprecedented for most WEF veterans.
But they did not let those wintry problems dim their enthusiasm for the basic message that Davos likes to hear: Liberal globalism in all its forms.


Saudi oil refinery in Gwadar to help Islamabad save $3 billion a year

Updated 4 min 10 sec ago
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Saudi oil refinery in Gwadar to help Islamabad save $3 billion a year

  • The refinery would produce up to 300,000 barrels per day once completed
  • Saudi Arabia is also setting up reservoirs for liquified natural gas in Pakistan, says Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to agree a deal to build an oil refinery and petrochemical complex at the Balochistani deep-sea Port of Gwadar, during the first state-level visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The deal will see Pakistan join with Saudi Aramco to build the facility, expected to cost $10 billion.

“We are working on feasibility studies for the establishment of the oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar, and will be ready to start by early 2020,” Pakistan’s Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Arab News on Thursday.

Once established, the project will help the South Asian nation cut its annual crude oil imports by up to $3 billion annually, in addition to creating thousands of job opportunities in the impoverished western province.

The country spends more than $16 billion each year on importing 26 million tons of petroleum products, including 800 million cubic feet of liquified natural gas (LNG) from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf countries.

Khan claimed the refinery would produce up to 300,000 barrels per day once completed.

“The Saudi authorities have asked us to complete all the initial work on the project on a fast track, as they want to set it up as early as possible,” he said.

A Saudi technical team, including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, has visited Gwadar twice in recent months to examine the site for the refinery, getting briefings from Pakistani officials on security in the area near the border with Iran.

“We will ensure complete security for Saudi investments and people working on the project. A detailed security plan has already been chalked up with help of the security agencies,” Khan added.

Pakistan currently has five oil refineries, but they can only satisfy half of its annual demand. Islamabad and Riyadh have long maintained strong ties, with the latter repeatedly offering the former financial assistance. Last year, the Kingdom guaranteed Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports, to help stave off an economic crisis. The Islamic Republic also received $3 billion from the UAE to protect its foreign reserves.

Khan added that the Pakistani-Arab Refinery Co. (PARCO) was also setting up an oil refinery at Khalifa Point, near the city of Hub in Balochistan. 

“The work on this project is at an advanced stage. Land for it has been acquired and other formalities are being fulfilled,” he said.

Khan hopes the world’s perception of Pakistan will change upon completion of these deals, after years of war in the surrounding region. Exxon Mobil returned to Pakistan last month after 27 years, and started offshore drilling with $75 million of initial investments. 

“All results of the drilling are positive so far, and we expect huge oil and gas reserves to be discovered soon,” he said.

“More foreign companies are contacting us to invest in offshore drilling and exploration. Saudi Arabia is also setting up reservoirs for LNG in Pakistan. More Saudi investment will come to Pakistan with the passage of time.”