China will safeguard national interests in response to US trade moves

Tariffs of $60 billion are expected to be imposed on China. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 March 2018
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China will safeguard national interests in response to US trade moves

BEIJING: China will actively take steps to safeguard its interests as well as those of its industries, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said, in light of what he described as acts of trade protectionism on the part of the US.
The US decision to launch trade investigations is a unilateral act of protectionism, the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, citing a speech by Wang in New Delhi.
President Donald Trump is expected to unveil tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese technology and telecoms products by Friday, two officials briefed on the matter said on Monday.
The tariffs will be imposed under Section 301 of the 1974 US Trade Act, following an intellectual property probe that began in August last year.
“Taking trade restrictive measures will not only impede normal international trade order but also cause serious damage to the multilateral trade system,” Wang said at a two-day World Trade Organization ministerial meeting that ended on Tuesday.
Trump has accused the Chinese government of forcing US companies to transfer their intellectual property to China as a cost of doing business there.
Voicing hopes that Beijing and the United States could avoid a trade war, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Tuesday that China would open its economy further, so that foreign and Chinese firms can compete on an equal footing.
But one day later, Chinese tabloid Global Times said in an editorial that US subsidies for its soybean farmers have given them an unfair competitive advantage in selling to China and strong restrictive measures need to be taken to prevent dumping.
While the widely-read paper is run by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, its stance does not necessarily equate with Chinese government policy.
Expectations of tariffs on some Chinese goods have alarmed dozens of US business groups, who said they would raise prices for consumers, kill jobs and drive down financial markets.
Fears of a global trade war have risen after Trump imposed hefty import tariffs on steel and aluminum earlier this month under Section 232 of the 1962 US Trade Expansion Act, which allows safeguards based on “national security.”
The move provoked strong protests from US allies, including South Korea, Japan and Canada.
In a “field guide” on a potential China-US trade war, S&P Global Ratings said any retaliation by major US trading partners will derail a synchronized global economic recovery.
In any case, China’s trade openness and its reliance on trade for GDP growth both peaked over decade ago, and China’s growth story is increasingly a domestic one, the ratings agency said.
S&P has an A+ rating on China, on par with ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch.
Fitch Ratings on Wednesday affirmed its China rating, but said heightened trade tensions with the United States pose a downside risk to the ratings agency’s baseline outlook.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.