China, Southeast Asian states push trade pact

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, second right, gestures with leaders of ASEAN, from left, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, during ASEAN-UN summit in Nonthaburi, Thailand on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 03 November 2019

China, Southeast Asian states push trade pact

  • New demands from India leave officials scrambling to salvage progress

BANGKOK: Leaders from China and Southeast Asia states called for swift agreement on what could become the world’s largest trade bloc at a regional summit on Sunday, but new demands from India left officials scrambling to salvage progress.

Hopes of finalizing the Asia-wide Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is backed by China, have been thrown into doubt at the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok, Thailand.

Summit host Thailand said late on Sunday that the deal could be signed by February 2020. Thailand had previously said it aimed to conclude negotiations by the end of the year.

New impetus to reach agreement has come from the US-China trade war, which has helped knock regional economic growth to its lowest in five years.

“The early conclusion of RCEP negotiations will lay the foundation for East Asia’s economic integration,” said a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry after Premier Li Keqiang met Southeast Asian leaders.

But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not even mention the RCEP deal in opening remarks at a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders and instead spoke only of reviewing the existing trade agreement between ASEAN and India.

HIGHLIGHTS

Summit host Thailand said late on Sunday that the deal could be signed by February 2020.

Once finalized, the trade bloc would become the world’s largest accounting for a third of global gross domestic product.

Nor did Modi mention the trade bloc, whose 16 countries would account for a third of global gross domestic product and nearly half the world’s population, in Twitter posts after meeting Thai and Indonesian leaders.

Southeast Asian countries had hoped at least a provisional agreement could be announced on Monday.

But India has been worried about a potential flood of Chinese imports. A person with knowledge of New Delhi’s negotiations said new demands were made last week “which are difficult to meet.”

 

Trade war impact 

Negotiators were meeting into the evening on Sunday to try to come to an agreement, Thai government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat told reporters on Sunday.

“We don’t have a conclusion yet. Once there is one, it would be announced,” she said. “Commerce ministers are still discussing outstanding issues. The signing is expected around February next year.”

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told the formal opening of the ASEAN summit on Sunday that the 16 nations in the potential trade bloc ought to come to agreement this year to stimulate economic growth, trade and investment.

He highlighted the risks of “trade frictions” and “geostrategic competition” in the region.

Some countries have raised the possibility of moving ahead without India on forming a bloc that also included Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

But Thai Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit told Reuters on Sunday that India had not pulled out.

The US decision to send a lower level delegation to the summits this year has raised regional concerns that it can no longer be relied on as a counterweight to China’s increasing regional might.


OPEC sees small 2020 oil deficit even before latest supply cut

Updated 12 December 2019

OPEC sees small 2020 oil deficit even before latest supply cut

  • OPEC keeps its 2020 economic and oil demand growth forecasts steady and is more upbeat about the outlook

LONDON: OPEC on Wednesday pointed to a small deficit in the oil market next year due to restraint by Saudi Arabia even before the latest supply pact with other producers takes effect, suggesting a tighter market than previously thought.

In a monthly report, OPEC said demand for its crude will average 29.58 million barrels per day (bpd) next year. OPEC pumped less oil in November than the average 2020 requirement, having in previous months supplied more.

The report retreats further from OPEC’s initial projection of a 2020 supply glut as output from rival producers such as US shale has grown more slowly than expected. This will give a tailwind to efforts by OPEC and partners led by Russia to support the market next year.

OPEC kept its 2020 economic and oil demand growth forecasts steady and was more upbeat about the outlook.

“On the positive side, the global trade slowdown has likely bottomed out, and now the negative trend in industrial production seen in 2019 is expected to reverse in 2020,” the report said.

Oil prices were steady after the report’s release, trading near $64 a barrel, below the level some OPEC officials have said
they favor.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, a group known as OPEC+, have since Jan. 1 implemented a deal to cut output by 1.2 million bpd to support the market. At meetings last week, OPEC+ agreed to a further cut of 500,000 bpd from Jan. 1 2020.

The report showed OPEC production falling even before the new deal takes effect.

In November, OPEC output fell by 193,000 bpd to 29.55 million bpd, according to figures the group collects from secondary sources, as Saudi Arabia cut supply.

Saudi Arabia told OPEC it made an even bigger cut in supply of over 400,000 bpd last month. The Kingdom had boosted production in October after attacks on its oil facilities in September briefly more than halved output.

The November production rate suggests there would be a 2020 deficit of 30,000 bpd if OPEC kept pumping the same amount and other factors remained equal, less than the 70,000 bpd surplus implied in November’s report and an excess of over 500,000 bpd seen in July. OPEC and its partners have been limiting supply since 2017, helping to revive prices by clearing a glut that built up in 2014 to 2016. But higher prices have also boosted US shale and other rival supplies.

In the report, OPEC said non-OPEC supply will grow by 2.17 million bpd in 2020, unchanged from the previous forecast but 270,000 less than initially thought in July as shale has not grown as quickly as first thought.

“In 2020, non-OPEC supply is expected to see a continued slowdown in growth on the back of decreased investment and lower drilling activities in US tight oil,” OPEC said, using another term for shale.