Exports grew from Middle East, Russia and Africa in 2017 says WTO

WTO director general Roberto Azevedo warned that “a cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs.” Reuters
Updated 12 April 2018
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Exports grew from Middle East, Russia and Africa in 2017 says WTO

  • Stable demand for oil and other commodities lifts exports 2.3%
  • “A cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs,” warns WTO director general

The Middle East, Africa, and Russia saw steady export growth of 2.3 percent in volume terms last year on the back of stable demand in quantity terms for oil and other natural resources, according to the latest report by the World Trade Organization.
Imports generated by the combined regions increased slightly by 0.9 percent partly as a result of higher primary commodity prices, “which raise export revenue in resource exporting countries and allow more imports to be purchased,” the WTO said.
Energy prices have more than doubled since January 2016, but even at around $70 per barrel oil prices “still remain below the $100 level that prevailed before the middle of 2014,” the organization noted.
World trade in global goods is expected to maintain its robust recovery since the global financial crisis, but might falter if trade tensions between China and US escalate further.
Trade in goods was forecast to grow 4.4 percent this year after a decade averaging 3 percent a year following the crisis. Last year it grew 4.7 percent — much higher than the 3.6 percent forecast in September — and a further 4 percent rise is expected in 2019, the WTO said.
“However, this important progress could be quickly undermined if governments resort to restrictive trade policies, especially in a tit-for-tat process that could lead to an unmanageable escalation,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said in a statement. “A cycle of retaliation is the last thing the world economy needs.”
The United States and China have threatened each other with tens of billions of dollars’ worth of tariffs in recent weeks, leading to worries that Washington and Beijing may engage in an all-out trade war.
The WTO’s 2018 forecast puts world trade growth at the top end of previous expectations, since the organization said last September that it expected 2018 growth of 1.4 to 4.4 percent.
The latest forecast raises that to 3.1 to 5.5 percent based on current GDP forecasts, but “a continued escalation of trade restrictive policies could lead to a significantly lower figure,” the WTO said.
“These forecasts do not, and I repeat, they do not factor in the possibility of a dramatic escalation of trade restrictions,” Azevedo told a news conference.
“It is not possible to accurately map out the effects of a major escalation, but clearly they could be serious,” he said. “Poorer countries would stand to lose the most.”


Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

Updated 23 March 2019
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Energy giants spent $1bn on climate lobbying, PR since Paris: watchdog

  • Firms under pressure to explain how greener laws will hit business models

PARIS: The five largest publicly listed oil and gas majors have spent $1 billion since the 2015 Paris climate deal on public relations or lobbying that is “overwhelmingly in conflict” with the landmark accord’s goals, a watchdog said Friday.
Despite outwardly committing to support the Paris agreement and its aim to limit global temperature rises, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total spend a total of $200 million a year on efforts “to operate and expand fossil fuel operations,” according to InfluenceMap, a pro-transparency monitor.
Two of the companies — Shell and Chevron — said they rejected the watchdog’s findings.
“The fossil fuel sector has ramped up a quite strategic program of influencing the climate agenda,” InfluenceMap Executive Director Dylan Tanner told AFP.
“It’s a continuum of activity from their lobby trade groups attacking the details of regulations, controlling them all the way up, to controlling the way the media thinks about the oil majors and climate.”
The report comes as oil and gas giants are under increasing pressure from shareholders to come clean over how greener lawmaking will impact their business models.
As planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions hit their highest levels in human history in 2018, the five companies wracked up total profits of $55 billion.
At the same time, the International Panel on Climate Change — composed of the world’s leading climate scientists — issued a call for a radical drawdown in fossil fuel use in order to hit the 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) cap laid out in the Paris accord.
InfluenceMap looked at accounts, lobbying registers and communications releases since 2015, and alleged a large gap between the climate commitments companies make and the action they take.

 

It said all five engaged in lobbying and “narrative capture” through direct contact with lawmakers and officials, spending millions on climate branding, and by employing trade associations to represent the sector’s interests in policy discussions.
“The research reveals a trend of carefully devised campaigns of positive messaging combined with negative policy lobbying on climate change,” it said.
It added that of the more than $110 billion the five had earmarked for capital investment in 2019, just $3.6bn was given over to low-carbon schemes.
The report came one day after the European Parliament was urged to strip ExxonMobil lobbyists of their access, after the US giant failed to attend a hearing where expert witnesses said the oil giant has knowingly misled the public over climate change.
“How can we accept that companies spending hundreds of millions on lobbying against the EU’s goal of reaching the Paris agreement are still granted privileged access to decision makers?” said Pascoe Sabido, Corporate Europe Observatory’s climate policy researcher, who was not involved in the InfluenceMap report.
The report said Exxon alone spent $56 million a year on “climate branding” and $41 million annually on lobbying efforts.
In 2017 the company’s shareholders voted to push it to disclose what tougher emissions policies in the wake of Paris would mean for its portfolio.
With the exception of France’s Total, each oil major had largely focused climate lobbying expenditure in the US, the report said.
Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.
AFP contacted all five oil and gas companies mentioned in the report for comment.
“We disagree with the assertion that Chevron has engaged in ‘climate-related branding and lobbying’ that is ‘overwhelmingly in conflict’ with the Paris Agreement,” said a Chevron spokesman.
“We are taking action to address potential climate change risks to our business and investing in technology and low carbon business opportunities that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
A spokeswoman for Shell — which the report said spends $49 million annually on climate lobbying — said it “firmly rejected” the findings.
“We are very clear about our support for the Paris Agreement, and the steps that we are taking to help meet society’s needs for more and cleaner energy,” they told AFP.
BP, ExxonMobil and Total did not provide comment to AFP.

FACTOID

$ 28m

Chevron alone has spent more than $28 million in US political donations since 1990, according to the report.