OPEC rift deepens as Iran walks out of key meeting in Vienna

Photo showing Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh surrounded by police and journalists as he arrives at his hotel ahead of a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, Austria, June 19, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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OPEC rift deepens as Iran walks out of key meeting in Vienna

VIENNA: Iran's oil minister walked out of a key meeting with OPEC peers on Thursday, as a rift deepened with regional rival Saudi over its push to ramp up the cartel's oil output.
"I do not think we can reach an agreement," Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters at his Vienna hotel after storming out of talks with a group of ministers on the eve of a crucial OPEC meet.
The talks were meant to lay the groundwork for Friday's gathering of the 14-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), when the cartel will discuss easing a supply-cut deal with 10 partner countries that has cleared a global oil supply glut and pushed crude prices to multi-year highs.
The output curbs have been in place since January 2017 but Saudi Arabia, backed by non-member Russia, is now pushing to raise production again in order to meet growing demand in the second half of 2018.
But the proposal has run into resistance from Iran, Iraq and Venezuela, who would struggle to immediately raise output and fear losing market share and revenues if other countries open the spigots.
Iran is particularly vocal about its objections as it braces for the impact of fresh US sanctions on its oil exports after President Donald Trump quit the international nuclear agreement.
But Riyadh, which cheered Washington's exit from the nuclear pact, is under pressure from Trump to boost output in order to lower oil prices ahead of November's midterm elections.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih had earlier signalled a compromise could be in the works.
He acknowledged that a big production hike might be "politically unacceptable" to some OPEC countries and said it was important to be "sensitive" to those concerns.
The 24 nations in the pact, known as OPEC+, initially agreed to trim production by 1.8 million barrels a day but they have actually been keeping more than two million bpd off the market.
Observers believe a face-saving deal could be brokered if members simply stopped over-complying with the current pact, and agreed to stick to the original reduction quotas -- which would bring several hundred thousand more barrels to the market each day.
But that is easier said than done since much of the shortfall has come from Venezuela, where an economic crisis has savaged the nation's petroleum production.
Output has also plummeted in Libya, where fighting between rival factions has damaged key oil infrastructure.


G-20 calls for more dialogue on rising trade tensions

Handout photo released by the G20 Press Office showing the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney on a screen as he speaks during a meeting on digital technology as a key to financial inclusion, on the second day of the G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, in Buenos Aires, on July 22, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 14 min 48 sec ago
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G-20 calls for more dialogue on rising trade tensions

  • The Group of 20 nations is composed of traditional economic powers such as the United States, Japan and Germany and emerging nations such as China, Brazil, India and Argentina
  • Trade tensions remain high and they threaten to escalate further

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: The world’s top financial officials called Sunday for more dialogue on trade disputes that threaten global economic growth, with one warning that differences remain and tensions could escalate further.
The two-day meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 nations came as the United States clashes with China and other nations over trade, with the nations imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of the other’s goods.
A final communique said that although the global economy remains strong, growth is becoming “less synchronized” and risks over the short and medium terms have increased.
“These include rising financial vulnerabilities, heightened trade and geopolitical tensions, global imbalances, inequality and structurally weak growth, particularly in some advanced economies,” the communique said. “We ... recognize the need to step up dialogue and actions to mitigate risks and enhance confidence.”
On Friday, President Donald Trump renewed his threat to ultimately slap tariffs on a total of $500 billion of imports from China — roughly equal to all the goods Beijing ships annually to the US The White House has also itemized $200 billion of additional Chinese imports that it said may be subject to tariffs.
The US has also imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, including from Europe. China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey have counterpunched with taxes on US goods. EU tariffs on American products include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, cranberries, peanut butter, playing cards and whiskey.
EU financial affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned that such disputes are a threat.
“Protectionism, I want to insist on that, is good for no one,” Moscovici told reporters. “Trade wars are not easy ... they create no winners, only casualties.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin disputed that protectionism is the issue.
“People are trying to make this about the United States and protectionism. That’s not the case at all,” he said at a news conference. “This is about the United States wanting fair and free trade. ... We very much support the idea that trade is important for the global economy, but it’s got to be on fair and reciprocal terms.”
Mnuchin said there had been no “substantive discussions” with China about trade during the meeting. Asked what it would take to re-start talks with the Asian giant, he said, “Anytime that they want to sit down and negotiate meaningful changes, I and our team are available.”
As the gathering wound up, Moscovici said differences of position remain despite talks.
“These meetings have been taking place in an international context which is very challenging. ... Trade tensions remain high and they threaten to escalate further,” he said.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has warned that a wave of tariffs could significantly harm the global economy, lowering growth by about 0.5 percent “in the worst-case scenario.”
Mnuchin disagreed Sunday, saying that overall, the US economy has not been harmed by the trade battles set off by Trump’s get-tough policies. He acknowledged, however, that some individual sectors have been hurt and said US officials are looking at ways to help them.
“We see some micro impacts where people, our counterparts, are targeting very, very specific items, in very specific communities,” he said. “But from a macro standpoint, we do not yet see any significant impact on the economy.”
So far, global markets have remained generally calm despite the US-China trade war and the other trade conflicts.
But analysts say they expect Trump will impose more tariffs on China and potentially other key US trading partners. With those nations almost certain to retaliate, the result could be higher prices for Americans, diminished export sales and a weaker US economy by next year, they say.
Moscovici said the G-20 meeting had not been tense. He said that countries must remain “cool-headed and maintain a proper sense of perspective” and that the EU remains open to dialogue.
“That’s why EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will meet with Trump” in Washington next week, he said. “We hope this meeting will be productive and successful.”
Mnuchin said that the US looks forward to those discussions.
The Group of 20 nations is composed of traditional economic powers such as the United States, Japan and Germany and emerging nations such as China, Brazil, India and Argentina.
Officials in Buenos Aires also discussed issues including the future of work and infrastructure for development, the international tax system and financial inclusion. It is the third of five meetings by finance ministers and central bankers scheduled in advance of a meeting of G-20 national leaders in Argentina to be held Nov. 30-Dec 1. Mnuchin said Trump plans to attend.