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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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U.S. And China Hold Key To Higher Oil Prices

Oil prices have broken new multi-month highs, but the next level up may largely depend on what happens between the U.S. and Chinese trade negotiations.

There have been conflicting reports in recent days. Oil prices fell back on news that China was resisting U.S. demands and digging in its heels, which the market interpreted as a bad sign for the outcome of a trade deal.

The two sides have gotten this far by hashing out the easy stuff. China agreed to buy more American energy and farm products, and the U.S. delayed tariffs and signaled a desire to end them. But the hard issues were always going to be difficult to overcome. These include intellectual property rights, access to the Chinese market for American firms, data-services, and other practices by the Chinese government that Washington views as unfair. On top of those specific issues, the two sides are arguing over how to enforce the deal, and how quickly to roll off the tariffs.

Trump has sounded an optimistic tone for weeks, which has raised expectations of a forthcoming deal. The U.S. has twice delayed the implementation of tariffs, citing progress in the negotiations. But Bloomberg reported that China has been pushing back because it feels that while it is making concessions, the U.S. side has been more non-committal.

Trump had floated a meeting with Xi at Mar-a-Lago at the end of March. That was pushed off until April and recently was pushed off again until June. Markets sank on the news and…



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  • Mamdouh Salameh on March 21 2019 said:
    Being the two biggest economies in the world, China and the United States have a huge sway over the oil global market and oil prices. Therefore, an early end of the trade war between tem will provide a huge boost to the global economy and oil prices.

    And despite the delay, a deal will be reached because both sides want it. Both their economies have been adversely affected by the tariffs with the US economy suffering more simply because China’s economy is bigger and far more integrated in the global trade system than the United States’. The proof is that China’s economy is projected to grow this year by 6.6% as it did in 2018 compared with some 2.5%-3.0% for the US and 2% for the European Union (EU). Moreover, China’s crude oil imports hit their highest record in January and February reaching 10.4 million barrels a day (mbd) and are projected to reach 11 mbd this year. This is certainly not a sign of a slowing economy.

    Moreover, President Trump has an election around the corner and can, therefore, ill-afford to let the trade war devastate the farming states in America’s heartland where he draws a lot of support.

    Another factor is that China will never put its name to any agreement that allows President Trump to claim victory. It will just walk away from the negotiations.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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