China-US trade tension dominates opening day of Bloomberg New Economy Forum

Henry Kissinger (L) speaks with Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2018
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China-US trade tension dominates opening day of Bloomberg New Economy Forum

  • China vice president firmly against 'unilateralism'
  • Mandelson says WTO at a 'crossroads'

SINGAPORE: World trade issues dominated the opening day of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum (NEF) in Singapore, with some speakers at the event expressing optimism that rising tensions between the US and China might not prove a stumbling block to global growth.
Wang Qishan, vice president of China, defused worries with an apparent olive branch offered to US President Donald Trump. “Both sides will gain from co-operation and will lose from confrontation,” he said in the keynote address.
“On trade, China will stay calm and will be open to negotiation. China is ready to have discussions with the USA on areas of mutual concern, and reach a solution satisfactory to both sides,” he added.
In the opening speech, Michael Bloomberg, founder of the global media group that has organized the NEF, quoted Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state who was also at the event; “Talk is good. If you’re talking, you’re not fighting.”
The Chinese politician underlined, however, that his country was “firmly against unilateralism and trade protectionism” — terns that have become a coded reference to the tariffs erected by Trump on Chinese imports. He also condemned the “cold war mentality and power politics,” in another veiled reference to the US.
“Such rapid changes have split some countries and societies. The polarization of right-leaning populism has manifested itself in political demands, which has led to unilateral policies against globalization and seriously affected the international political ecosystem,” Qishan added.
Peter Mandeslon, a former British trade minister, said that the World Trade Organization — the global regulatory body under attack by Trump — was “at a crossroads” but that it was not necessarily doomed. “There is a risk of collapse but we are not quite at that point yet,” he said.
He said that the reasons the WTO was in trouble was as much for political as of economic reasons. “People are turning against trade because they feel they are not getting their fair share of the pie. The politics has got to work better if we’re going to restore confidence in trade,” he said.
Mandelson said that China was a “huge issue” for world trade.
DBS Group, the Singaporean bank that is one of the biggest trade finance facilitators in Asia, downplayed the effects so far of US-China confrontation on trade.
Piyush Gupta, the DBS chief executive, said: “The direct effect will not be very material. It is very hard to shift supply chains,” adding that fears of a trade war between the two biggest economies in the world had been “somewhat overblown.”
A session on the Chinese “belt and road” initiative also heard fears about the spreading influence of China in its dealings with central Asia, the Middle East and Africa via the huge infrastructure investment program it has launched.
Some countries — including Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan — have expressed fears over the leverage China had on their economies as a result of the initiative.
Robert Blackwell, former US ambassador to India, said China should work more closely with partner governments to alleviate the concerns and employ more local labor. “But will they do that? I doubt it,” he added.


OPEC warns of 2019 oil glut as demand slows, rival supply rises

Updated 13 November 2018
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OPEC warns of 2019 oil glut as demand slows, rival supply rises

  • OPEC is talking again of reducing production just months after increasing it
  • The group meets on December 6 to set policy for 2019

LONDON: OPEC warned on Tuesday that an oil supply glut could emerge in 2019 as the world economy slows and supply from rival producers rises more quickly than expected, building a case for cutting output at a meeting next month.
Worried by a price drop and rising supplies, OPEC is talking again of reducing production just months after increasing it. Such a shift would worsen relations with US President Donald Trump, who on Monday urged OPEC not to cut supply.
In a monthly report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said world oil demand next year would rise by 1.29 million barrels per day, 70,000 bpd less than predicted last month and the fourth consecutive reduction in its forecast.
Non-OPEC supply would rise by 2.23 million bpd, the Vienna-based organization said, 120,000 bpd more than previously thought.
“Although the oil market has reached a balance now, the forecasts for 2019 for non-OPEC supply growth indicate higher volumes outpacing the expansion in world oil demand, leading to widening excess supply in the market,” OPEC said in the report.
“The recent downward revision to the global economic growth forecast and associated uncertainties confirm the emerging pressure on oil demand observed in recent months.”
Together with Russia and other non-OPEC producers, OPEC had agreed in June to boost supply after pressure from Trump to lower prices, partially unwinding output cuts that began in January 2017.
The group meets on December 6 to set policy for 2019.