China: US trade blackmail ‘disappoints’ the world

US President Donald Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on virtually all of China’s exports to the United States. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2018
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China: US trade blackmail ‘disappoints’ the world

  • Beijing said it would be forced to take countermeasures to defend Chinese interests, free trade and the international order
  • On July 10, Washington unveiled a list of another $200 billion in Chinese goods that would be hit with 10 percent import duties

BEIJING: China warned the US on Thursday that upping the ante in a tit-for-tat trade war will “only serve to disappoint” the world as Washington threatened to raise the tariff rate on the next $200 billion of Chinese imports.
Beijing said it would be forced to take countermeasures to defend Chinese interests, free trade and the international order.
“The US has no regard for the world ... playing both soft and hard ball with China will not have any effect, and only serve to disappoint the countries and territories opposed to a trade war,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement, adding that it still hopes to turn the situation around.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called Washington’s actions “blackmail” and urged the US “to return to rationality and not act on impulse. It will only hurt themselves.”
President Donald Trump asked the US Trade Representative (USTR) to consider increasing the proposed tariffs to 25 percent from the planned 10 percent, USTR Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday.
“We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake. Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against US workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Lighthizer said in a statement.
Officials, however, downplayed suggestions the move was intended to compensate for the recent decline in the value of the Chinese currency, which has threatened to take much of the sting out of Trump’s tariffs by making imports cheaper.
The US dollar has been strengthening since April as the central bank has been raising lending rates, which draws investors looking for higher returns.
“It’s important that countries refrain from devaluing currencies for competitive purposes,” a senior administration official told reporters. “But I wouldn’t draw the conclusion that the announcement we’re making today is directly linked to any one practice.”
Washington and Beijing are locked in battle over American accusations that China’s export economy benefits from unfair policies and subsidies, as well as theft of American technological know-how.
Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on virtually all of China’s exports to the US.
Officials said they remained in regular contact with their Chinese counterparts but could announce no new meeting.
The US already imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese goods, with another $16 billion to be targeted in coming weeks.
On July 10, Washington unveiled a list of another $200 billion in Chinese goods, from areas as varied as electrical machinery, leather goods and seafood, that would be hit with 10 percent import duties.
Increasing the rates to 25 percent could make them significantly more painful.
The comment period on the proposed penalties, which includes public hearings where business can ask for exemptions, due to take place later this month, would be extended into September, the officials said.
Much of American industry and many members of Trump’s own Republican Party have expressed outrage but have so far been unable to thwart Trump’s trade policies.
The US Senate last week passed legislation which if enacted would lower trade barriers on hundreds of Chinese imports.
Jake Colvin, vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said the Trump administration could be boxing itself into a corner.
“It’s hard to see how this action lends itself toward a resolution to what is increasingly a trade crisis,” he said.
Trump and senior administration officials believe the volume of US imports and vigorous health of the American economy give Washington an advantage in the current confrontation.
But Fred Bergsten, founding director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told CNBC that China would be able to absorb blows more easily than Washington.
“They can expand their stimulus, fiscal spending, bank lending,” he said.
“They can compensate much better than we can. They come from a much higher base.”
And Bergsten warned that the US economy is likely to slow and a trade war only makes that expected decline worse.


Saudi energy minister recommends driving down oil inventories, says supply plentiful

Updated 19 May 2019
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Saudi energy minister recommends driving down oil inventories, says supply plentiful

  • Oil supplies were sufficient and stockpiles were still rising despite massive output drops from Iran and Venezuela
  • Producer nations discussed how to stabilise a volatile oil market amid rising US-Iran tensions in the Gulf, which threaten to disrupt global supply

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said on Sunday he recommended “gently” driving oil inventories down at a time of plentiful global supplies and that OPEC would not make hasty decisions about output ahead of a June meeting.
“Overall, the market is in a delicate situation,” Falih told reporters before a ministerial panel meeting of top OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia.
While there is concern about supply disruptions, inventories are rising and the market should see a “comfortable supply situation in the weeks and months to come,” he said.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Saudi Arabia is de facto leader, would have more data at its next meeting in late June to help it reach the best decision on output, Falih said.
“It is critical that we don’t make hasty decisions – given the conflicting data, the complexity involved, and the evolving situation,” he said, describing the outlook as “quite foggy” due in part to a trade dispute between the United States and China.
“But I want to assure you that our group has always done the right thing in the interests of both consumers and producers; and we will continue to do so,” he added.
OPEC, Russia and other non-OPEC producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, agreed to reduce output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from Jan. 1 for six months, a deal designed to stop inventories building up and weakening prices.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters that different options were available for the output deal, including a rise in production in the second half of the year.
The energy minister of the United Arab Emirates, Suhail Al-Mazrouei, said oil producers were capable of filling any gap in the oil market and that relaxing supply cuts was not “the right decision.”
Mazrouei said the UAE did not want to see a rise in inventories that could lead to a price collapse and that OPEC would act wisely to maintain sustainable market balance.
“As UAE we see that the job is not done yet, there is still a period of time to look at the supply and demand and we don’t see any need to alter the agreement in the meantime,” he said.
US crude inventories rose unexpectedly last week to their highest since September 2017, while gasoline stockpiles decreased more than forecast, data from the government’s Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.
DELICATE BALANCE
Saudi Arabia sees no need to boost production quickly now, with oil at around $70 a barrel, as it fears a price crash and a build-up in inventories, OPEC sources said, adding that Russia wants to increase supply after June.
The United States, not a member of OPEC+ but a close ally of Riyadh, wants the group to boost output to bring oil prices down.
Falih has to find a delicate balance between keeping the oil market well supplied and prices high enough for Riyadh’s budget needs, while pleasing Moscow to ensure Russia remains in the OPEC+ pact, and being responsive to the concerns of the United States and the rest of OPEC+, the sources said earlier.
Sunday’s meeting of the ministerial panel, known as the JMMC, comes amid concerns of a tight market. Iran’s oil exports are likely to drop further in May and shipments from Venezuela could fall again in coming weeks due to US sanctions.
Oil contamination also forced Russia to halt flows along the Druzhba pipeline — a key conduit for crude into Eastern Europe and Germany — in April. The suspension, as yet of unclear duration, left refiners scrambling to find supplies.
Russia’s Novak told reporters that oil supplies to Poland via the pipeline would start on Monday.
OPEC’s agreed share of the cuts is 800,000 bpd, but its actual reduction is far larger due to the production losses in Iran and Venezuela. Both are under US sanctions and exempt from the voluntary reductions under the OPEC-led deal.
REGIONAL TENSIONS
Oil prices edged lower on Friday due to demand fears amid a standoff in Sino-US trade talks, but both benchmarks ended the week higher on rising concerns over disruptions in Middle East shipments due to US-Iran political tensions.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are running high after last week’s attacks on two Saudi oil tankers off the UAE coast and another on Saudi oil facilities inside the Kingdom.
Riyadh accused Tehran of ordering the drone strikes on oil pumping stations, for which Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi militia claimed responsibility. 
Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs said on Sunday that the Kingdom wants to avert war in the region but stands ready to respond with “all strength” following the attacks.
“Although it has not affected our supplies, such acts of terrorism are deplorable,” Falih said. “They threaten uninterrupted supplies of energy to the world and put a global economy that is already facing headwinds at further risk.”
The attacks come as the United States and Iran spar over Washington’s tightening of sanctions aimed at cutting Iranian oil exports to zero, and an increased US military presence in the Gulf over perceived Iranian threats to US interests.