Alwaght- China has threatened to levy duties on US oil imports worth almost $1 billion per month, as war trade between Beijing and Washington is expanding, Reuters reported.
In an escalating spat over the United States’ trade deficit with most of its major trading partners, including China, US President Donald Trump said last week he was pushing ahead with hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, starting on July 6.
China said Friday it would retaliate by slapping duties on several American commodities, including oil.
Investors expect the spat to come at the expense of US oil firms, pulling down the share prices of ExxonMobil and Chevron by 1 to 2 percent since Friday, while US crude oil prices fell by around 5 percent.
The dispute between the United States and China comes at a pivotal time for oil markets.
Following a year and a half of voluntary supply cuts led by the West Asia-dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as well as the non-OPEC producer Russia, oil markets have tightened, pushing up prices.
The potential drop-off in American oil exports to China would benefit other producers, especially from OPEC and Russia.
A cut in Chinese purchases of U.S. oil may also benefit Iran’s sales, which Washington is trying to curb with new sanctions it announced in May.
"The Chinese may just replace some of the American oil with Iranian crude,” said John Driscoll, director of consultancy JTD Energy Services.
"China isn’t intimidated by the threat of US sanctions. They haven’t been in the past. So in this diplomatic spat they might just replace US crude with Iranian oil. That would obviously infuriate Trump,” he said.
US oil exports, which have been surging thanks to a sharp increase in production in the past three years, were seen as a viable alternative to make up for the cut in supplies from OPEC and Russia.
Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that U.S. crude oil shipments to China have soared in value recently, jumping from just $100 million per month in early 2017 to almost $1 billion per month currently.
The threatened tariff would make US oil more expensive versus supplies from other regions, including the West Asia and Russia, and likely disrupt a business that has soared recently.
"With Trump’s politics, we’re in a world of re-aligning alliances. China will not just swallow US tariffs,” said Driscoll.
"This is tit-for-tat petroleum diplomacy,” he added. “The OPEC/non-OPEC cartel is the big beneficiary of all this oil diplomacy, as it will squeeze global spare oil capacity and likely push up crude prices."