China’s trade with US sinks in November

Weaker Chinese demand has global repercussions, depressing demand for industrial raw materials from other Asian economies and oil from Brazil and Australia. (AFP/File)
Updated 08 December 2019

China’s trade with US sinks in November

  • The dispute has disrupted global trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment and threatens to depress economic growth

BEIJING: China’s trade with the US sank again in November as negotiators worked on the first stage of a possible deal to end a tariff war.

Exports to the US fell 23 percent from a year earlier to $35.6 billion, customs data showed Sunday. 

Imports of American goods were off 2.8 percent at $11 billion, giving China a surplus with the US of $24.6 billion.

Exports to some other countries including France rose, helping to offset the loss.

China’s global exports were off 1.1 percent from a year earlier at $221.7 billion despite weakening worldwide demand. Imports were up 0.3 percent at $183 billion, giving China a global surplus of $38.7 billion.

Hopes for a settlement to the fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus rose after President Donald Trump’s announcement of a “Phase 1” agreement following talks in October. But there has been no sign of agreement on details nearly two months later.

The dispute has disrupted global trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment and threatens to depress economic growth.

Trump put off a tariff increase in October but penalties already imposed by both sides on billions of dollars of imports stayed in place. Another US increase is due on Sunday on $160 billion of Chinese goods. That would extend penalties to almost everything Americans buy from China.

Chinese spokespeople have expressed hope for a settlement “as soon as possible,” but Trump spooked financial markets last week by saying he might be willing to wait until after the US presidential election late next year.

Financial markets have repeatedly risen on optimism about the talks only to fall back when no progress is announced.

The “Phase 1” agreement doesn’t cover contentious issues including US complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Economists warn tensions could rise again next year and the bulk of tariff hikes are likely to stay in place for some time.

For the first 11 months of 2019, China’s total global exports were off 0.3 percent at $2.3 trillion despite the tariff war. Imports were down 4.5 percent at $1.8 trillion, adding to signs Chinese domestic demand is cooling.

China’s exporters have been hurt by the US tariff hikes but its overall economy has been unexpectedly resilient. Growth in the world’s second-largest economy slipped to 6 percent over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, down from the previous quarter’s 6.2 percent but still among the world’s strongest.

Weaker Chinese demand has global repercussions, depressing demand for industrial raw materials and components from other Asian economies and oil, iron ore and other commodities from Brazil, Australia and other suppliers.

The Ministry of Finance announced Friday that China was waiving punitive import duties on US soybeans, keeping a promise announced in September.

A sticking point is Beijing’s insistence that Washington roll back its most recent penalties on Chinese goods as part of the “Phase 1” deal. Beijing said last month the US side agreed, but Trump dismissed that.

A Chinese spokesman repeated Thursday that Beijing expects such a move in a “Phase 1” agreement.


Libyan state oil firm warns against export blockade

Updated 18 January 2020

Libyan state oil firm warns against export blockade

  • The NOC issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns calls to blockade oil ports ahead of the Berlin Conference on Sunday”
  • Tribes close to eastern Libya-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar had called for a blockade of coastal oil export terminals

TRIPOLI: Libya’s National Oil Company warned Friday against threats to block oil exports, the war-torn country’s main income source, two days before a Berlin conference aimed at relaunching a peace process.
Tribes close to eastern Libya-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar had called for a blockade of coastal oil export terminals to protest a Turkish intervention against Haftar in the country’s grinding conflict.
The NOC later issued a statement saying it “strongly condemns calls to blockade oil ports ahead of the Berlin Conference on Sunday.”
Turkey has backed the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord as it faces an offensive by Haftar’s forces to seize the capital from what he calls “terrorists” supporting the GNA.
After months of combat, which has killed more than 2,000 people, a cease-fire came into effect Sunday backed by both Ankara and Moscow, which is accused of supporting Haftar.
However, after Turkey deployed troops to support the United Nations-recognized GNA, tribes close to Haftar threatened to close down the “oil crescent” — a string of export hubs along Libya’s northeastern coast under Haftar’s control since 2016.
His troops have also mobilized to block any counter-attack on the oil crescent, the conduit for the majority of Libya’s crude exports.
“The closure of the fields and the terminals is purely a popular decision. It is the people who decided this,” spokesman for pro-Haftar forces Ahmad Al-Mismari told Al-Hadath television late Friday.
The tribes also called for the “immediate” closure of the Mellitah, Brega and Misrata pipelines.
The head of the eastern Zouaya tribe told AFP that blocking exports would “dry up the sources of funding for terrorism via oil revenues.”
NOC chairman Moustafa Sanalla said the oil and gas sector is “vital” for the Libyan economy, as it is the “single source of income for the Libyan people.”
“The oil and the oil facilities belong to the Libyan people. They are not cards to be played to solve political matters,” he added.
“Shutting down oil exports and production will have far-reaching and predictable consequences.”
The oil-rich North African state has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Its oil sector, which brings in almost all of the state’s revenues, has frequently been the target of attacks.
Sanalla said the consequences of exports and production being shut down for an extended period could be devastating.
“We face collapse of the exchange rate, a huge and unsustainable increase in the national deficit, the departure of foreign contractors, and the loss of future production, which may take years to restore,” he said.
“This is like setting fire to your own house.”