China appeals to Washington for quick end to trade war

A worker loads imported goods on a truck at a distribution company outside the container port in Qingdao in east China's Shandong province. (Chinatopix via AP)
Updated 17 October 2019

China appeals to Washington for quick end to trade war

  • Beijing says it will buy more American goods but has yet to confirm the details
  • Tariff hikes by both sides on billions of dollars of imports have battered factories and farmers

BEIJING: China appealed to Washington for a quick end to their trade war but gave no indication Thursday what additional steps Beijing might want before carrying out what President Donald Trump says is a promise to buy up to $50 billion of American farm goods.
Trump agreed Friday to delay a tariff hike in exchange for Chinese purchases of US exports. Beijing says it will buy more American goods but has yet to confirm the details, leaving companies wondering whether Chinese leaders have other demands including a possible end to punitive US tariffs before that goes ahead.
Negotiators are “striving to reach a consensus on the text of the agreement as soon as possible,” said a Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Gao Feng. “I can’t disclose the specific details.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday that officials were still ironing out details of a preliminary agreement.
Companies welcomed the deal as a small but promising possible step toward breaking a deadlock in the 15-month-old fight over China’s trade surplus and technology ambitions.
Tariff hikes by both sides on billions of dollars of imports have battered factories and farmers, weighing on global economic growth. Trump delayed a tariff due to take effect Tuesday on $250 billion of Chinese goods but another increase on $160 billion of imports still is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Economists warned the truce fails to address more basic complaints about Beijing’s plans for government-led creation of global competitors in robotics and other technologies.
Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say those violate Chinese market-opening commitments and are based on stealing or pressuring companies to hand over know-how.
China wants “economic and trade relations back on the right track at an early date,” Gao said at a weekly news briefing.
Achieving results will “restore market confidence and also is highly significant for stabilizing the global economic situation,” he said.
On Tuesday, a foreign ministry spokesman said China would “further speed up procurement” of American farm exports but gave no scale or time frame.
China has bought 20 million tons of US soybeans and 700,000 tons of pork this year, according to the spokesman, Geng Shuang. China imported about 33 million tons of American soybeans annually before the tariff fight and collapsed to 16.6 million tons last year.


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.”