New Saudi oil minister to play key role at Abu Dhabi energy congress

Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman takes oath in front of King Salman. (SPA)
Updated 11 September 2019

New Saudi oil minister to play key role at Abu Dhabi energy congress

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, will take center stage on Monday on the opening day of the World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi.

The minister was appointed on Sunday to replace Khalid Al-Falih, who also stepped down last week as chairman of Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company.

Prince Abdulaziz, a graduate of the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, has held advisory and executive roles in the Saudi oil industry since 1987, and has played a prominent part in the Kingdom’s dealings with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting countries (OPEC).

“If I had to count the world’s top five experts on the global oil market, he would be one of them,” Anas Al-Hajji, an independent oil analyst who has worked closely with the Saudi ministry, told Arab News.

The minister takes office at a crucial time for energy markets, with plans advancing for the initial public offering (IPO) of Aramco amid global concerns about future demand for oil.

At the event on Monday Prince Abdulaziz will take part in a 30-minute live televised interview for the broadcaster CNBC, conducted by Helima Croft, managing director and global head of commodity strategy at Canadian financial institution RBC Capital Markets.

The congress will be attended by representatives of 150 countries — ministers, executives from the big independent oil companies, and energy experts.

They include Alexander Novak, the Russian energy minister, his UAE counterpart Suhail Al-Mazroui, and OPEC secretary general Mohammed Barkindo. Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser is also expected to attend, as is Sultan Al-Jaber, UAE minister of state and chief executive of Adnoc,  the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

Delegates are likely to seek guidance from Prince Abdulaziz on the state of the Saudi oil industry in the wake of recent significant changes. Ellen Wald, American energy expert and author of the book Saudi Inc, told Arab News: “I would ask the new minister his assessment of how successful the OPEC/Non-OPEC Declaration of Co-operation has been.”

Al-Falih worked hard on the deal with Russian and other non-OPEC members to limit production in the face of growing US crude output.

“I’d also like to ask him about Saudi Arabia’s progress on nuclear power,” Wald said.

Energy expert Robin Mills, chief executive of Qamar Energy consultancy, said: “I think the Congress in Abu Dhabi is a friendly place for him to start off. I presume he will want to send a message of continuity, pressing on with the OPEC-plus deal and co-operation with Russia.”

Other experts echoed the need for continuity in the Saudi approach to global energy markets. David Hodson, managing director of Dubai consultancy BluePearl Management, said the new minister would want “to send a message of stability and reliability before the expected IPO.”

He said: “I find it hard to believe KSA alone could bring oil prices back up without Russian co-operation and a more optimistic global story.”

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

Updated 55 min 36 sec ago

US trade offensive takes out WTO as global arbiter

  • Two years after starting to block appointments, the US will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body
  • Two of three members of Appellate Body exit and leave it unable to issue rulings

BRUSSELS: US disruption of the global economic order reaches a major milestone on Tuesday as the World Trade Organization (WTO) loses its ability to intervene in trade wars, threatening the future of the Geneva-based body.
Two years after starting to block appointments, the United States will finally paralyze the WTO’s Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, as two of three members exit and leave it unable to issue rulings.
Major trade disputes, including the US conflict with China and metal tariffs imposed by US President Donald Trump, will not be resolved by the global trade arbiter.
Stephen Vaughn, who served as general counsel to the US Trade Representative during Trump’s first two years, said many disputes would be settled in future by negotiations.
Critics say this means a return to a post-war period of inconsistent settlements, problems the WTO’s creation in 1995 was designed to fix.
The EU ambassador to the WTO told counterparts in Geneva on Monday the Appellate Body’s paralysis risked creating a system of economic relations based on power rather than rules.
The crippling of dispute settlement comes as the WTO also struggles in its other major role of opening markets.
The WTO club of 164 has not produced any international accord since abandoning “Doha Round” negotiations in 2015.
Trade-restrictive measures among the G20 group of largest economies are at historic highs, compounded by Trump’s “America First” agenda and the trade war with China.
Phil Hogan, the European Union’s new trade commissioner, said on Friday the WTO was no longer fit for purpose and in dire need of reforms going beyond just fixing the appeals mechanism.
For developed countries, in particular, the WTO’s rules must change to take account of state-controlled enterprises.
In 2017, Japan brought together the United States and the European Union in a joint bid to set new global rules on state subsidies and forced technology transfers.
The US is also pushing to limit the ability of WTO members to grant themselves developing status, which for example gives them longer to implement WTO agreements.
Such “developing countries” include Singapore and Israel, but China is the clear focus.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Reuters last week the United States wanted to end concessions given to then struggling economies that were no longer appropriate.
“We’ve been spoiling countries for a very, very long time, so naturally they’re pushing back as we try to change things,” he said.
The trouble with WTO reform is that changes require consensus to pass. That includes Chinese backing.
Beijing has published its own reform proposals with a string of grievances against US actions. Reform should resolve crucial issues threatening the WTO’s existence, while preserving the interests of developing countries.
Many observers believe the WTO faces a pivotal moment in mid-2020 when its trade ministers gather in a drive to push through a multinational deal — on cutting fishing subsidies.
“It’s not the WTO that will save the fish. It’s the fish that are going to save the WTO,” said one ambassador.