US says Iran has lost $10bn in oil revenue due to sanctions

Gas flares from an oil production platform at Iran's Soroush oil fields. The US said a well supplied oil market helps bring Iranian crude exports to zero. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 13 March 2019
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US says Iran has lost $10bn in oil revenue due to sanctions

  • US envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, said Washington the United States is accelerating its plan of bringing Iranian crude exports to zero
  • Washington wants to ensure a stable and well-supplied oil market

HOUSTON: Iran has lost $10 billion in revenue since US sanctions in November have removed about 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude from global markets, a US State Department official said on Wednesday.
Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative on Iran, said in remarks at the CERAWeek energy conference that due to a global oil surplus — in part due to record US production — the United States is accelerating its plan of bringing Iranian crude exports to zero.
US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, two of the largest oil producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and production cuts by OPEC and Russia have boosted global oil prices to near four-month highs.
Iran reached an agreement with world powers in 2015 over its nuclear program which led to the lifting of sanctions in 2016 but US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in May last year and reimposed restrictions in November.
Trump “has made it very clear that we need to have a campaign of maximum economic pressure” on Iran, Hook said, “but he also doesn’t want to shock oil markets, he wants to ensure a stable and well-supplied oil market. That policy has not changed.”
The global oil market is looking for signs that Washington may extend sanctions waivers for Iran’s key customers in early May. The United States surprised the market in November last year by allowing eight countries to keep importing Iranian oil — in part causing Brent crude futures, the international benchmark, to fall to near $50 a barrel in late December after surpassing $86 a barrel in October.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has projected that world supply will exceed demand in 2019 by 440,000 bpd, Hook said.
“When you have a better supplied oil market it enables us to accelerate our path to zero. But we also know that there are a lot of variables that go into a well-supplied and stable oil market,” said Hook, a senior policy adviser to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Washington sanctioned Venezuelan oil exports in January in an effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro and a massive power outage since last week halted crude exports from its primary port, essentially crippling the South American country’s principal industry.
“We are aware that our diplomatic and economic pressure, the timing and the pace of that affects Venezuela’s oil industry,” Hook said.
He said the United States is monitoring global supplies for impact from sanctions. “I’ve met a few times with (Saudi Energy Minister) Khalid Al-Falih over the last year when we knew we were taking a lot of oil, we wanted to ensure that we’re doing this in a responsible way,” he said.
Falih said on Sunday that OPEC’s production-curbing agreement likely would last until at least June. OPEC and its allies agreed late in 2018 to cut output by 1.2 million bpd.


US wins WTO ruling against China grain import quotas

Updated 10 min 24 sec ago
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US wins WTO ruling against China grain import quotas

GENEVA: The United States won a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on Thursday against China’s use of tariff-rate quotas for rice, wheat and corn, which it successfully argued limited market access for US grain exports.
The case, lodged by the Obama administration in late 2016, marked the second US victory in as many months. It came amid US-China trade talks and on the heels of Washington clinching a WTO ruling on China’s price support for grains in March.
A WTO dispute panel ruled on Thursday that under the terms of its 2001 WTO accession, China’s administration of the tariff rate quotas (TRQs) as a whole violated its obligation to administer them on a “transparent, predictable and fair basis.”
TRQs are two-level tariffs, with a limited volume of imports allowed at the lower ‘in-quota’ tariff and subsequent imports charged an “out-of-quota” tariff, which is usually much higher.
The administration of state trading enterprises and non-state enterprises’ portions of TRQs are inconsistent with WTO rules, the panel said.
Australia, Brazil, India, and the European Union were among those reserving their rights in the dispute brought by the world’s largest grain exporter.
In a statement, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue welcomed the decision, saying China’s system “ultimately inhibits TRQs from filling, denying US farmers access to China’s market for grain.”
If China’s TRQs had been fully used, $3.5 billion worth of corn, wheat and rice would have been imported in 2015 alone, it said, citing US Department of Agriculture estimates.
The two WTO rulings would help American farmers “compete on a more level playing field,” the USTR statement said, adding: “The (Trump) Administration will continue to press China to promptly come into compliance with its WTO obligations.”
The latest WTO panel said that the United States had not proven all of its case, failing to show that China had violated its public notice obligation under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in respect to TRQs.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on Friday it “regrets” the panel’s decision and that it would “earnestly evaluate” the panel’s report.
China would “handle the matter appropriately in accordance with WTO dispute resolution procedures, actively safeguard the stability of the multilateral trading system and continue to administer the relevant agricultural import tariff quotas in compliance with WTO rules,” it said.
Either side can appeal the ruling within 60 days.