All posts by MBusiness

‘Perfect Time,’ Ethical Businesses Say, to Drive Social Change

Ethically driven businesses are becoming increasingly popular and profitable but they can face threats for shaking up the existing order, entrepreneurs said on Social Enterprise Day.

When Meghan Markle wore a pair of “slave-free” jeans on a royal tour of Australia last month, she sparked a sales stampede and shone a spotlight on the growing number of companies aiming to meet public demand for ethical products.

“Right now is the perfect time to have this kind of business,” said James Bartle, founder of Australia-based Outland Denim, which made the $200 (150 pound) jeans. “There is awareness and people are prepared to spend on these kinds of products.”

Social Enterprise Day

Social Enterprise Day, which celebrates firms seeking to make profit while doing good, is being marked in 23 countries, including Australia, Nigeria, Romania and the Philippines, led by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), which represents the sector.

Outland Denim is one such company, employing dozens of survivors of human trafficking and other vulnerable women in Cambodia to make its jeans, which all contain a written thank-you message from the seamstress on an internal pocket.

Bartle said he wanted to create a sustainable model that gives people power to change their future through employment.

More companies are striving to clean up their supply chains and stamp their goods as environmentally friendly and ethical, with women and millennials, people born between 1982 and 2000, driving the shift to products that seek to improve the world.

“For-profits create the mess, and then the not-for-profits clean it up,” said Andrew O’Brien, director of external affairs at SEUK, which estimates that 2 million British workers are employed by a social enterprise. “We are an existential threat to that system, by coming through the middle and forcing businesses to change the way they do business.”

Risky business 

Britain has the world’s largest social enterprise sector, according to the U.K. government. About 100,000 firms contribute 60 billion pounds ($76 billion) to the world’s fifth largest economy, SEUK says.

Elsewhere in the world, it can be a risky business.

“I get threats,” said Farhad Wajdi who runs Ebtakar Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan, which helps women enter the workforce by training and providing seed money for them to operate food carts in the war-torn country. “I can’t go to the provinces.”

His work has met resistance in parts of Afghanistan, a conservative society where women rarely work outside the home.

“A social enterprise can lead to sustainable change in those communities,” Wajdi said on the sidelines of the Trust Conference in London. “It can propagate gender equality and create friction for social change at a grassroots level.”

Niche? Window dressing?

There is, however, a danger that social enterprise will remain a niche form of business or become window-dressing for firms that just want to improve their public image.

“I don’t want social enterprise to become the next (corporate social responsibility), another (public relations) move,” said Melissa Kim, the founder of Costa Rican-based Uplift Worldwide, which supports social enterprises.

“To me this is just good business, and good sustainable business is not just about the environment and human rights … if you care about your relationships internally and externally you will stay in business.”

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‘Perfect Time,’ Ethical Businesses Say, to Drive Social Change

Ethically driven businesses are becoming increasingly popular and profitable but they can face threats for shaking up the existing order, entrepreneurs said on Social Enterprise Day.

When Meghan Markle wore a pair of “slave-free” jeans on a royal tour of Australia last month, she sparked a sales stampede and shone a spotlight on the growing number of companies aiming to meet public demand for ethical products.

“Right now is the perfect time to have this kind of business,” said James Bartle, founder of Australia-based Outland Denim, which made the $200 (150 pound) jeans. “There is awareness and people are prepared to spend on these kinds of products.”

Social Enterprise Day

Social Enterprise Day, which celebrates firms seeking to make profit while doing good, is being marked in 23 countries, including Australia, Nigeria, Romania and the Philippines, led by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), which represents the sector.

Outland Denim is one such company, employing dozens of survivors of human trafficking and other vulnerable women in Cambodia to make its jeans, which all contain a written thank-you message from the seamstress on an internal pocket.

Bartle said he wanted to create a sustainable model that gives people power to change their future through employment.

More companies are striving to clean up their supply chains and stamp their goods as environmentally friendly and ethical, with women and millennials, people born between 1982 and 2000, driving the shift to products that seek to improve the world.

“For-profits create the mess, and then the not-for-profits clean it up,” said Andrew O’Brien, director of external affairs at SEUK, which estimates that 2 million British workers are employed by a social enterprise. “We are an existential threat to that system, by coming through the middle and forcing businesses to change the way they do business.”

Risky business 

Britain has the world’s largest social enterprise sector, according to the U.K. government. About 100,000 firms contribute 60 billion pounds ($76 billion) to the world’s fifth largest economy, SEUK says.

Elsewhere in the world, it can be a risky business.

“I get threats,” said Farhad Wajdi who runs Ebtakar Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan, which helps women enter the workforce by training and providing seed money for them to operate food carts in the war-torn country. “I can’t go to the provinces.”

His work has met resistance in parts of Afghanistan, a conservative society where women rarely work outside the home.

“A social enterprise can lead to sustainable change in those communities,” Wajdi said on the sidelines of the Trust Conference in London. “It can propagate gender equality and create friction for social change at a grassroots level.”

Niche? Window dressing?

There is, however, a danger that social enterprise will remain a niche form of business or become window-dressing for firms that just want to improve their public image.

“I don’t want social enterprise to become the next (corporate social responsibility), another (public relations) move,” said Melissa Kim, the founder of Costa Rican-based Uplift Worldwide, which supports social enterprises.

“To me this is just good business, and good sustainable business is not just about the environment and human rights … if you care about your relationships internally and externally you will stay in business.”

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China Woos Pacific Islands With Loans, Showcase Projects

As world leaders land in Papua New Guinea for a Pacific Rim summit, the welcome mat is especially big for China’s president.

A huge sign in the capital, Port Moresby, welcomes Xi Jinping, picturing him gazing beneficently at Papua New Guinea’s leader, and his hotel is decked out with red Chinese lanterns. China’s footprint is everywhere, from a showpiece boulevard and international convention center built with Chinese help to bus stop shelters that announce their origins with “China Aid” plaques. 

On the eve of Xi’s arrival for a state visit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, newspapers in the country ran a full-page statement from the Chinese leader. It exhorted Pacific island nations to “set sail on a new voyage” of relations with China, which in the space of a generation has transformed from the world’s most populous backwater into a major economic power. 

With both actions and words, Xi has a compelling message for the South Pacific’s fragile island states, long both propped up and pushed around by U.S. ally Australia: they now have a choice of benefactors. With the exception of Papua New Guinea, those island nations are not part of APEC, but the leaders of many of them have traveled to Port Moresby and will meet with Xi.

The APEC meeting, meanwhile, is Xi’s to dominate. Headline-hogging leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are not attending. Trump’s stand-in, Vice President Mike Pence, is staying in Cairns in Australia’s north and flying into Papua New Guinea each day. Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, the country’s fifth leader in five years, is barely known abroad.

“President Xi Jinping is a good friend of Papua New Guinea,” its prime minister, Peter O’Neill, told reporters. “He has had a lot of engagement with Papua New Guinea and I’ve visited China 12 times in the last seven years.”

Pacific island nations, mostly tiny, remote and poor, rarely figure prominently on the world stage but have for several years been diligently courted by Beijing as part of its global effort to finance infrastructure that advances its economic and diplomatic interests. Papua New Guinea with about 8 million people is by far the most populous, and with its extensive tropical forests and oil and gas reserves is an obvious target for economic exploitation.

Six of the 16 Pacific island states still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a sizeable bloc within the rapidly dwindling number of nations that recognize the island regarded as a renegade province by Beijing. Chinese aid and loans could flip those six into its camp. A military foothold in the region would be an important geostrategic boost for China, though its purported desire for a base has so far been thwarted. 

Beijing’s assistance comes without the oversight and conditions that Western nations and organizations such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund impose. It is promising $4 billion of finance to build the first national road network in Papua New Guinea, which could be transformative for the mountainous nation. But experts warn there could also be big costs later on: unsustainable debt, white elephant showpieces and social tensions from a growing Chinese diaspora.

“China’s engagement in infrastructure in PNG shouldn’t be discounted. It should be encouraged but it needs to be closely monitored by the PNG government to make sure it’s effective over the long term,” said Jonathan Pryke, a Papua New Guinea expert at the Lowy Institute, a think tank in Sydney.

“The benefits of these projects, because a lot of them are financed by loans, only come from enhanced economic output over a long time to be able to justify paying back these loans,” he said.

“The history of infrastructure investment in PNG shows that too often there is not enough maintenance going on,” Pryke said. “There’s a build, neglect, rebuild paradigm in PNG as opposed to build and maintain which is far more efficient.”

Some high-profile Chinese projects in Papua New Guinea have already run into problems. A promised fish cannery hasn’t materialized after several years and expansion of a port in Lae, the major commercial center, was botched and required significant rectification work. Two of the Chinese state companies working in the country, including the company responsible for the port expansion, were until recently blacklisted from World Bank-financed projects because of fraud or corruption.

Xi’s newspaper column asserted China is the biggest foreign investor in Papua New Guinea, a statement more aspirational than actual. Its involvement is currently dwarfed by the investment of a single company—ExxonMobil’s $19 billion natural gas extraction and processing facility.

Australia, the former colonial power in Papua New Guinea, remains its largest donor of conventional foreign aid. Its assistance, spread across the country and aimed at improving bare bones public services and the capacity of government, is less visible. 

But its approach is shifting in response to China’s moves. 

In September, the Australian government announced it would pay for what is typically a commercial venture — a high-speed undersea cable linking Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands that promises to make the internet and telecommunications in the two island countries faster, more reliable and less expensive.

Earlier this month, Australia announced more than $2 billion of funding for infrastructure and trade finance aimed at Pacific island nations and also agreed to joint development of a naval base in Papua New Guinea, heading off feared Chinese involvement. It is also boosting its diplomatic presence, opening more embassies to be represented in every Pacific island state.

“The APEC meeting is shaping up to be a faceoff between China and Australia for influence in the Pacific,” said Elaine Pearson, the Australia director of Human Rights Watch.

That might seem a positive development for the region, but Pearson cautioned that competition for Papua New Guinea’s vast natural resources has in the past had little positive impact on the lives of its people.

“Sadly exploitation of resources in PNG has fueled violent conflict, abuse and environmental devastation,” she said.

 

 

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China Woos Pacific Islands With Loans, Showcase Projects

As world leaders land in Papua New Guinea for a Pacific Rim summit, the welcome mat is especially big for China’s president.

A huge sign in the capital, Port Moresby, welcomes Xi Jinping, picturing him gazing beneficently at Papua New Guinea’s leader, and his hotel is decked out with red Chinese lanterns. China’s footprint is everywhere, from a showpiece boulevard and international convention center built with Chinese help to bus stop shelters that announce their origins with “China Aid” plaques. 

On the eve of Xi’s arrival for a state visit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, newspapers in the country ran a full-page statement from the Chinese leader. It exhorted Pacific island nations to “set sail on a new voyage” of relations with China, which in the space of a generation has transformed from the world’s most populous backwater into a major economic power. 

With both actions and words, Xi has a compelling message for the South Pacific’s fragile island states, long both propped up and pushed around by U.S. ally Australia: they now have a choice of benefactors. With the exception of Papua New Guinea, those island nations are not part of APEC, but the leaders of many of them have traveled to Port Moresby and will meet with Xi.

The APEC meeting, meanwhile, is Xi’s to dominate. Headline-hogging leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are not attending. Trump’s stand-in, Vice President Mike Pence, is staying in Cairns in Australia’s north and flying into Papua New Guinea each day. Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, the country’s fifth leader in five years, is barely known abroad.

“President Xi Jinping is a good friend of Papua New Guinea,” its prime minister, Peter O’Neill, told reporters. “He has had a lot of engagement with Papua New Guinea and I’ve visited China 12 times in the last seven years.”

Pacific island nations, mostly tiny, remote and poor, rarely figure prominently on the world stage but have for several years been diligently courted by Beijing as part of its global effort to finance infrastructure that advances its economic and diplomatic interests. Papua New Guinea with about 8 million people is by far the most populous, and with its extensive tropical forests and oil and gas reserves is an obvious target for economic exploitation.

Six of the 16 Pacific island states still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a sizeable bloc within the rapidly dwindling number of nations that recognize the island regarded as a renegade province by Beijing. Chinese aid and loans could flip those six into its camp. A military foothold in the region would be an important geostrategic boost for China, though its purported desire for a base has so far been thwarted. 

Beijing’s assistance comes without the oversight and conditions that Western nations and organizations such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund impose. It is promising $4 billion of finance to build the first national road network in Papua New Guinea, which could be transformative for the mountainous nation. But experts warn there could also be big costs later on: unsustainable debt, white elephant showpieces and social tensions from a growing Chinese diaspora.

“China’s engagement in infrastructure in PNG shouldn’t be discounted. It should be encouraged but it needs to be closely monitored by the PNG government to make sure it’s effective over the long term,” said Jonathan Pryke, a Papua New Guinea expert at the Lowy Institute, a think tank in Sydney.

“The benefits of these projects, because a lot of them are financed by loans, only come from enhanced economic output over a long time to be able to justify paying back these loans,” he said.

“The history of infrastructure investment in PNG shows that too often there is not enough maintenance going on,” Pryke said. “There’s a build, neglect, rebuild paradigm in PNG as opposed to build and maintain which is far more efficient.”

Some high-profile Chinese projects in Papua New Guinea have already run into problems. A promised fish cannery hasn’t materialized after several years and expansion of a port in Lae, the major commercial center, was botched and required significant rectification work. Two of the Chinese state companies working in the country, including the company responsible for the port expansion, were until recently blacklisted from World Bank-financed projects because of fraud or corruption.

Xi’s newspaper column asserted China is the biggest foreign investor in Papua New Guinea, a statement more aspirational than actual. Its involvement is currently dwarfed by the investment of a single company—ExxonMobil’s $19 billion natural gas extraction and processing facility.

Australia, the former colonial power in Papua New Guinea, remains its largest donor of conventional foreign aid. Its assistance, spread across the country and aimed at improving bare bones public services and the capacity of government, is less visible. 

But its approach is shifting in response to China’s moves. 

In September, the Australian government announced it would pay for what is typically a commercial venture — a high-speed undersea cable linking Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands that promises to make the internet and telecommunications in the two island countries faster, more reliable and less expensive.

Earlier this month, Australia announced more than $2 billion of funding for infrastructure and trade finance aimed at Pacific island nations and also agreed to joint development of a naval base in Papua New Guinea, heading off feared Chinese involvement. It is also boosting its diplomatic presence, opening more embassies to be represented in every Pacific island state.

“The APEC meeting is shaping up to be a faceoff between China and Australia for influence in the Pacific,” said Elaine Pearson, the Australia director of Human Rights Watch.

That might seem a positive development for the region, but Pearson cautioned that competition for Papua New Guinea’s vast natural resources has in the past had little positive impact on the lives of its people.

“Sadly exploitation of resources in PNG has fueled violent conflict, abuse and environmental devastation,” she said.

 

 

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Automaker Groups Warn US Tariffs Will Undermine New NAFTA Deal

U.S. automakers and parts suppliers on Thursday urged the Trump administration to end steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada and warned that potential U.S. national security tariffs on automotive imports would lead to widespread job losses.

In testimony at a U.S. International Trade Commission hearing on the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, several automotive trade groups said automotive side letters to the agreement indicated that imposition of such tariffs were inevitable.

And the failure of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to lift steel and aluminum tariffs have also cost the industry billions of dollars, and trade turmoil in general has paralyzed investment decisions, they said.

“The current state of play on trade has placed our industry in turmoil. In the last year our members have faced section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, other Section 232 tariffs proposed, and Section 301 tariffs on goods from China,” said Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs at the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association.

The Trump administration is considering recommendations from the Commerce Department on whether to impose tariffs on national security grounds under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. No decisions have been made, but President Donald Trump has frequently threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs on autos and parts to pressure the European Union and Japan to make trade concessions to the United States.

“If implemented, increased auto tariffs would not only undermine the potential success of the USMCA, they would also pose a material threat to the economy and may result in the loss of as many as 700,000 jobs across the U.S.,” said Jennifer Thomas, vice president of government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers, which represents foreign brand automakers with U.S. plants, said the USMCA’s inclusion of duty-free import quotas for Mexico and Canada in the event such tariffs are imposed suggests that it is a “foregone conclusion” that Trump will impose them.

“The threat of additional tariffs on autos and auto parts under the section 232 investigation that Commerce is conducting hangs like a sword over our industry and complicates any assessment of the USMCA,” Bozzella said.

“In our view, there is no credible justification for the idea that automotive imports threaten our national security — in fact, the growth of international automakers in the United States during the past quarter century proves otherwise.”

Detroit vs. foreign brands

There also was a divergence of views among domestic and foreign automakers on the overall benefits of the USMCA agreement, which requires autos to have 75 percent regional content and at least 40 percent from the United States or Canada.

Bozzella expressed concern that the “many layered” content requirements would hurt automakers’ competitiveness by requiring “unnecessary” supply chain shifts and investment in compliance.

Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents Detroit automakers General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler described the trade deal as “workable” for these companies which have larger U.S. manufacturing footprints than their competitors.

He said it would not require massive manufacturing and supply chain changes immediately, but over time, automakers would need to consider changes in where they build cars and major components.

“While the new rules will present some challenges for our industry, we believe the [Trump] administration included sufficient flexibilities that will help our automakers remain competitive while they successfully transition to the new, more stringent rules of origin included in the USMCA,” Blunt said.

Blunt estimated, however, that higher steel and aluminum costs due to tariffs mean that it costs about $400 more to produce a vehicle in the United States than it does to make them elsewhere with foreign metals.

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Automaker Groups Warn US Tariffs Will Undermine New NAFTA Deal

U.S. automakers and parts suppliers on Thursday urged the Trump administration to end steel and aluminum tariffs on Mexico and Canada and warned that potential U.S. national security tariffs on automotive imports would lead to widespread job losses.

In testimony at a U.S. International Trade Commission hearing on the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, several automotive trade groups said automotive side letters to the agreement indicated that imposition of such tariffs were inevitable.

And the failure of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to lift steel and aluminum tariffs have also cost the industry billions of dollars, and trade turmoil in general has paralyzed investment decisions, they said.

“The current state of play on trade has placed our industry in turmoil. In the last year our members have faced section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, other Section 232 tariffs proposed, and Section 301 tariffs on goods from China,” said Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs at the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association.

The Trump administration is considering recommendations from the Commerce Department on whether to impose tariffs on national security grounds under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. No decisions have been made, but President Donald Trump has frequently threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs on autos and parts to pressure the European Union and Japan to make trade concessions to the United States.

“If implemented, increased auto tariffs would not only undermine the potential success of the USMCA, they would also pose a material threat to the economy and may result in the loss of as many as 700,000 jobs across the U.S.,” said Jennifer Thomas, vice president of government affairs for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers, which represents foreign brand automakers with U.S. plants, said the USMCA’s inclusion of duty-free import quotas for Mexico and Canada in the event such tariffs are imposed suggests that it is a “foregone conclusion” that Trump will impose them.

“The threat of additional tariffs on autos and auto parts under the section 232 investigation that Commerce is conducting hangs like a sword over our industry and complicates any assessment of the USMCA,” Bozzella said.

“In our view, there is no credible justification for the idea that automotive imports threaten our national security — in fact, the growth of international automakers in the United States during the past quarter century proves otherwise.”

Detroit vs. foreign brands

There also was a divergence of views among domestic and foreign automakers on the overall benefits of the USMCA agreement, which requires autos to have 75 percent regional content and at least 40 percent from the United States or Canada.

Bozzella expressed concern that the “many layered” content requirements would hurt automakers’ competitiveness by requiring “unnecessary” supply chain shifts and investment in compliance.

Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents Detroit automakers General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler described the trade deal as “workable” for these companies which have larger U.S. manufacturing footprints than their competitors.

He said it would not require massive manufacturing and supply chain changes immediately, but over time, automakers would need to consider changes in where they build cars and major components.

“While the new rules will present some challenges for our industry, we believe the [Trump] administration included sufficient flexibilities that will help our automakers remain competitive while they successfully transition to the new, more stringent rules of origin included in the USMCA,” Blunt said.

Blunt estimated, however, that higher steel and aluminum costs due to tariffs mean that it costs about $400 more to produce a vehicle in the United States than it does to make them elsewhere with foreign metals.

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Upset by Trump’s Iran Waivers, Saudis Push for Deep Oil Output Cut

When U.S. President Donald Trump asked Saudi Arabia this summer to raise oil production to compensate for lower crude exports from Iran, Riyadh swiftly told Washington it would do so.

But Saudi Arabia did not receive advance warning when Trump made a U-turn by offering generous waivers that are keeping more Iranian crude in the market instead of driving exports from Riyadh’s arch-rival down to zero, OPEC and industry sources say.

Angered by the U.S. move that has raised worries about over supply, Saudi Arabia is now considering cutting output with OPEC and its allies by about 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) or 1.5 percent of global supply, sources told Reuters this week.

“The Saudis are very angry at Trump. They don’t trust him anymore and feel very strongly about a cut. They had no heads-up about the waivers,” said one senior source briefed on Saudi energy policies.

Washington has said the waivers are a temporary concession to allies that imported Iranian crude and might have struggled to find other supplies quickly when U.S. sanctions were imposed on November 4.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on November 5 that cutting Iranian exports “to zero immediately” would have shocked the market. “I don’t want to lift oil prices,” he said.

A U.S. source with knowledge of the matter said: “The Saudis were going to be angry either way with the waivers, pre-briefed or even after the announcement.”

A U.S. State Department official said: “We don’t discuss diplomatic communications.”

The U.S. shift towards offering waivers adds to tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia, as Washington pushes for Riyadh to shed full light on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

“The Saudis feel they were completely snookered by Trump. They did everything to raise supplies assuming Washington would push for very harsh Iranian sanctions. And they didn’t get any heads up from the U.S. that Iran will get softer sanctions,” said a second source briefed on Saudi oil thinking.

Saudi energy ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Since the summer, Riyadh has led the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers to hike supplies by over 1 million bpd to keep a lid on prices as U.S. sanctions were imposed.

Brent oil had surged above $86 a barrel in October on tight supply worries, but prices have since slid to $66 on concerns about oversupply.

Unexpected waivers

Trump had wanted lower oil prices before the U.S. midterm elections earlier this month. Washington gave waivers in November to eight buyers to purchase Iranian oil for 180 days.

This was more waivers than were initially expected. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key Trump administration ally, wants prices at $80 or more for his economic reforms, sources familiar with Saudi thinking say.

“The waivers were totally unexpected, especially after calls to raise output. A few people are upset,” said a senior Gulf oil source familiar with the discussions among OPEC and its allies on output policy.

While the United States set a time limit for the waivers, it did not tell the eight recipients how much oil they could buy and has not eased payment restrictions, complicating purchases.

Iran’s oil exports are expected to drop sharply to about 1 million bpd in November from a peak of 2.8 million bpd earlier this year. Although output is expected to recover from December thanks to waivers, it is still not clear by how much.

Riyadh’s concern is to avoid the kind of oversupply in the market that led to a price collapse in 2014 to below $30.

But the lack of clarity about the level of Iran’s supplies makes it tough for Saudi Arabia to work out appropriate production levels, especially after Russia raised output steeply in recent months and has said it wanted to produce more in 2019.

Saudi Arabia would need to convince Russia to join in any move for new supply cuts.

“First the Saudis let oil prices rise to $86 per barrel and then flooded the market. Can they now cut back enough going into a seasonally weak time of the year? Without Russia it won’t be credible,” said Gary Ross, CEO of Black Gold investors.

Saudi Arabia must also contend with rising U.S. production that has hit record levels above 11 million bpd and is set to climb further next year. U.S. exports could surge from the second part of 2019 when new pipeline infrastructure opens.

Rapidan Energy Group said it saw a supply glut now lasting much more than just a few months in 2019.

“Now that the market has correctly priced weaker-than-anticipated Iran sanctions and much bigger inventory builds next year, we wish to emphasize that ‘OPEC plus’ officials face more than a single-year supply tsunami in 2019,” Rapidan said.

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Upset by Trump’s Iran Waivers, Saudis Push for Deep Oil Output Cut

When U.S. President Donald Trump asked Saudi Arabia this summer to raise oil production to compensate for lower crude exports from Iran, Riyadh swiftly told Washington it would do so.

But Saudi Arabia did not receive advance warning when Trump made a U-turn by offering generous waivers that are keeping more Iranian crude in the market instead of driving exports from Riyadh’s arch-rival down to zero, OPEC and industry sources say.

Angered by the U.S. move that has raised worries about over supply, Saudi Arabia is now considering cutting output with OPEC and its allies by about 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) or 1.5 percent of global supply, sources told Reuters this week.

“The Saudis are very angry at Trump. They don’t trust him anymore and feel very strongly about a cut. They had no heads-up about the waivers,” said one senior source briefed on Saudi energy policies.

Washington has said the waivers are a temporary concession to allies that imported Iranian crude and might have struggled to find other supplies quickly when U.S. sanctions were imposed on November 4.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on November 5 that cutting Iranian exports “to zero immediately” would have shocked the market. “I don’t want to lift oil prices,” he said.

A U.S. source with knowledge of the matter said: “The Saudis were going to be angry either way with the waivers, pre-briefed or even after the announcement.”

A U.S. State Department official said: “We don’t discuss diplomatic communications.”

The U.S. shift towards offering waivers adds to tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia, as Washington pushes for Riyadh to shed full light on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

“The Saudis feel they were completely snookered by Trump. They did everything to raise supplies assuming Washington would push for very harsh Iranian sanctions. And they didn’t get any heads up from the U.S. that Iran will get softer sanctions,” said a second source briefed on Saudi oil thinking.

Saudi energy ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Since the summer, Riyadh has led the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers to hike supplies by over 1 million bpd to keep a lid on prices as U.S. sanctions were imposed.

Brent oil had surged above $86 a barrel in October on tight supply worries, but prices have since slid to $66 on concerns about oversupply.

Unexpected waivers

Trump had wanted lower oil prices before the U.S. midterm elections earlier this month. Washington gave waivers in November to eight buyers to purchase Iranian oil for 180 days.

This was more waivers than were initially expected. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key Trump administration ally, wants prices at $80 or more for his economic reforms, sources familiar with Saudi thinking say.

“The waivers were totally unexpected, especially after calls to raise output. A few people are upset,” said a senior Gulf oil source familiar with the discussions among OPEC and its allies on output policy.

While the United States set a time limit for the waivers, it did not tell the eight recipients how much oil they could buy and has not eased payment restrictions, complicating purchases.

Iran’s oil exports are expected to drop sharply to about 1 million bpd in November from a peak of 2.8 million bpd earlier this year. Although output is expected to recover from December thanks to waivers, it is still not clear by how much.

Riyadh’s concern is to avoid the kind of oversupply in the market that led to a price collapse in 2014 to below $30.

But the lack of clarity about the level of Iran’s supplies makes it tough for Saudi Arabia to work out appropriate production levels, especially after Russia raised output steeply in recent months and has said it wanted to produce more in 2019.

Saudi Arabia would need to convince Russia to join in any move for new supply cuts.

“First the Saudis let oil prices rise to $86 per barrel and then flooded the market. Can they now cut back enough going into a seasonally weak time of the year? Without Russia it won’t be credible,” said Gary Ross, CEO of Black Gold investors.

Saudi Arabia must also contend with rising U.S. production that has hit record levels above 11 million bpd and is set to climb further next year. U.S. exports could surge from the second part of 2019 when new pipeline infrastructure opens.

Rapidan Energy Group said it saw a supply glut now lasting much more than just a few months in 2019.

“Now that the market has correctly priced weaker-than-anticipated Iran sanctions and much bigger inventory builds next year, we wish to emphasize that ‘OPEC plus’ officials face more than a single-year supply tsunami in 2019,” Rapidan said.

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US Envoy for Iran Warns EU Banks, Firms Against Non-Dollar Iran Trade

European banks and firms which engage in a special European Union initiative to protect trade with Iran will be at risk from newly reimposed U.S. sanctions, the U.S. special envoy for Iran warned on Thursday.

It is “no surprise” that EU efforts to establish a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for non-dollar trade with Iran were floundering over fear in EU capitals that hosting it would incur U.S. punishment, Special Representative Brian Hook said.

“European banks and European companies know that we will vigorously enforce sanctions against this brutal and violent regime,” he said in a telephone briefing with reporters.

“Any major European company will always choose the American market over the Iranian market.”

The SPV is seen as the lynchpin of European efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran from which U.S. President Donald Trump, who took office after the deal was sealed, withdrew in May.

Iran has warned it could scrap the agreement, which curbed its disputed program in exchange for sanctions relief, if the EU fails to preserve the deal’s economic benefits.

The SPV was conceived as a clearing house that could be used to help match Iranian oil and gas exports against purchases of EU goods in an effective barter arrangement circumventing U.S. sanctions, based on global use of the dollar for oil sales.

Brussels had wanted to have the SPV set up by this month, but no country has offered to host it, six diplomats told Reuters this week.

Their reluctance arises from fears that SPV reliance on local banks to smooth trade with Iran may trigger U.S. penalties, severing the lenders’ access to U.S. financial markets, diplomats said.

Criticizing EU efforts to bypass sanctions, Hook reiterated a warning that such an EU effort sent “the wrong signal, at the wrong time.”

However, he added that waivers from sanctions granted to eight of Iran’s biggest oil importers were to ensure the U.S. measures did not harm allies or raise oil prices.

“We have looked at these on a case by case basis, taking into account the unique needs of friends and partners, and also ensuring that as we impose sanctions on Iran’s oil sector that we do not lift the price of oil,” Hook said.

$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

US Envoy for Iran Warns EU Banks, Firms Against Non-Dollar Iran Trade

European banks and firms which engage in a special European Union initiative to protect trade with Iran will be at risk from newly reimposed U.S. sanctions, the U.S. special envoy for Iran warned on Thursday.

It is “no surprise” that EU efforts to establish a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for non-dollar trade with Iran were floundering over fear in EU capitals that hosting it would incur U.S. punishment, Special Representative Brian Hook said.

“European banks and European companies know that we will vigorously enforce sanctions against this brutal and violent regime,” he said in a telephone briefing with reporters.

“Any major European company will always choose the American market over the Iranian market.”

The SPV is seen as the lynchpin of European efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran from which U.S. President Donald Trump, who took office after the deal was sealed, withdrew in May.

Iran has warned it could scrap the agreement, which curbed its disputed program in exchange for sanctions relief, if the EU fails to preserve the deal’s economic benefits.

The SPV was conceived as a clearing house that could be used to help match Iranian oil and gas exports against purchases of EU goods in an effective barter arrangement circumventing U.S. sanctions, based on global use of the dollar for oil sales.

Brussels had wanted to have the SPV set up by this month, but no country has offered to host it, six diplomats told Reuters this week.

Their reluctance arises from fears that SPV reliance on local banks to smooth trade with Iran may trigger U.S. penalties, severing the lenders’ access to U.S. financial markets, diplomats said.

Criticizing EU efforts to bypass sanctions, Hook reiterated a warning that such an EU effort sent “the wrong signal, at the wrong time.”

However, he added that waivers from sanctions granted to eight of Iran’s biggest oil importers were to ensure the U.S. measures did not harm allies or raise oil prices.

“We have looked at these on a case by case basis, taking into account the unique needs of friends and partners, and also ensuring that as we impose sanctions on Iran’s oil sector that we do not lift the price of oil,” Hook said.

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