16 June 2018, News Wires – Beijing surprised oil markets with threats to levy tariffs on imports of U.S. crude oil, natural gas and other energy products on Friday, just as China has risen to the top of the list of importers of oil from the United States.
China responded to $50 billion in tariffs imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump with a similar amount of levies on a variety of U.S. goods. But China also said it would impose tariffs on U.S. energy products, which analysts considered a surprise as previous tariff threats had centered on agricultural goods and automobiles.
“This is a big deal. China is essentially the largest customer for U.S. crude now, and so for crude it’s an issue, let alone when you involve (refined) products, too. This is obviously a big development,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.
China currently imports about 363,000 barrels of U.S. crude daily, on par with Canada as the biggest U.S. crude importer, according to U.S. Energy Department figures. It also takes in an additional 200,000 barrels a day (bpd) of other products like propane.
The U.S. energy industry has been buoyed by production from the nation’s shale fields, boosting overall daily oil production to a record 10.9 million bpd. Of that, the United States is now exporting about 2 million bpd, and Trump has touted dominance in energy production and export as key to American global influence.
The United States has also been urging other nations, including China, to buy more U.S. energy and limit purchases of Iranian crude after Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear arms agreement with Tehran. China is the largest buyer of Iranian oil, purchasing 650,000 bpd in the first quarter of 2018, and it is unclear if it plans to reduce those purchases.