China to Build Panama Canal Bypass Through Nicaragua

One of the most extraordinary stories of the past decade largely overlooked by the U.S. media is how Central and Latin America have quietly escaped U.S. control since 9-11, as Washington focused on its global War on Terror (WoT). The WoT diverted Washington’s attention long enough that progressive governments established themselves throughout the southern Western […]

Environmental Issues that Could De-Rail the Natural Gas Boom

There are two key environmental issues that have the most likelihood of slowing the natural gas boom or, perhaps, redirecting its trajectory: fracking chemicals and fracking water usage. Fracking chemicals: what the frack? Inflamed by dramatic scenes like tap water catching on fire, worries over the effect of fracking on the quality of groundwater have […]

Russo-Chinese Relations

When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited China the last week of September, pride of place in the diplomatic agenda was made manifest in a ceremony marking completion of the Skovorodino-Daqing oil pipeline between the two countries built in just 20 months. Comprising a 576-mile spur on the Chinese side of the border to the longtime energy-sector city of Daqing and a 45-mile connector on the Russian side to the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline, it will allow Russia to export 300,000 barrels per day to China over the course of two decades, representing roughly eight percent of current Chinese imports and four percent of current consumption. Pursuant to a February 2009 agreement, Russian para-statal energy companies received $25 billion in loans in order to construct this pipeline and as pre-payment for oil to be received.

Happy Belated Birthday OPEC?

Yesterday was OPEC’s 50th birthday.  The occasion is being met with celebration in Vienna, the host of the OPEC secretariat, and in OPEC capital cities (see FT beyond BRICS for more).  Production still remains well below the 2008 peak, or even the average of 2006-8 (despite oil averaging around US$75 per barrel for most of the last year), but was inching up until mid-year and is currently at a price level where all but OPEC’s overspenders can balance their budgets.  All in all, assume status quo of unchanged production at OPEC’s next meeting in October, as the prospects for oil demand growth cool along with the global economy. In the longer-term demand, particularly from EM Asia (and oil exporters themselves), should keep prices high.

Turkmenistan Diversifies Gas Export Routes

Turkmenistan has broken Russia’s stranglehold on its gas exports by opening a pipeline through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China. The country’s president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has just made his first trip to New Delhi where the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India natural gas pipeline project was discussed. Earlier this year a short pipeline was opened in order to increase exports to Iran, and gas is in the process of being identified for eventual export to Europe via a Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline and the EU’s Southern Corridor. The era of Russian control over the country’s exports is over, and Ashgabat is taking care to make certain that it is not squeezed between Moscow and Beijing.

1. Background

Unpacking China’s Trade Deficit

So China has a trade deficit…and a big one at that.

The first monthly deficit in 6 years is a gap of US$7.24 billion! Despite hints from Chinese officials, this was much larger than consensus expected (Bloomberg surveys pointed to US$500 million), and we actually expected a small surplus, proving that as usual, Chinese government statements in the press about forthcoming data releases should be taken at face value.