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Shipping Industry Hopes for a Trade War Truce Before “It’s Too Late”

The recent one-year anniversary of the US-China trade war is nothing to celebrate for. In fact, ongoing friction is now openly threatening the global economy, with many analysts (most recently the IMF) now openly warning about a looming global recession. This of course is bad news for the shipping industry.

In a recent note, shipbroker Intermodal said that “as of May 1st, the U.S. has ended waivers to the sanctions that had allowed the top buyers of Iranian oil to continue their imports. China is the world’s No1 oil importer and a major buyer of Iranian Oil. The May 1 deadline coincided with the US trade representatives traveling to Beijing and while in April Trump was tweeting that whilst there are still differences, the two sides are closer to a trade deal; the move of eliminating the waivers could be linked to the trade talks and most probably even served as an irritant between Beijing and Washington. Making China’s energy imports challenging and subject to U.S. Jurisdiction is not something that can be easily digested and its timing is rather unusual, in one of the supposed final rounds of trade negotiations”.

“So, right when everybody thought that the trade war might be winding down, the trade frictions have suddenly worsened last week when Trump vented about China renegotiating agreed positions, and announced a 25% tariff on $200b worth of Chinese products. Additionally the US administration said it will impose 25% tariff on all remaining imports from China, $300b, or so”, said Intermodal.

According to Intermodal’s Mr. Theodore Ntalakos, SnP Broker, “China has retaliated by announcing that they will increase the tariffs on about $60b in U.S. exports, including hundreds of agricultural, mining, and manufactured products, threatening jobs and profits at companies in and around the United States. The Chinese tariffs of 25% will fall mostly on products that China has a surplus or self-reliance, such as steel, chemicals or textiles while goods that they don’t produce will be taxed with 5%”.

He added that “China depends on the U.S. mostly for high-end products, such as electronics, machinery, precision equipment, aircraft and parts, vehicles and parts, and oil and gas and the Chinese government looks like they have handpicked the goods where the tax will be increased to 25%. One U.S. industry that will be heavily affected is the LNG exports which will face a 25% tariff. LNG shipping firms have also seen their share prices dip. While China, who is already the second largest importer of LNG, will increase their LNG imports by 50% by 2025, the price will be the most decisive factors for the amount and origin of imports. This will only become more important with the startup of the gas pipeline between China and Russia. President Trump knows that and has pushed China to sign deals to import LNG”.

According to Mr. Ntalakos, “the next few weeks will be critical. The worst case – no deal – scenario, or even if coming to an agreement gets anywhere close to 2020, will be a game changer. Tariffs on all trades between US and China plus other administrative actions will lead to a slowdown in investment, rising costs and business uncertainty that will probably lead in a recession in the US and given the weakness in the European economy, Europe would suffer as well with the negative effects spreading across other economies eventually”, he said.

“On the other hand, negotiations have come a long way. President Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping will attend the G20 meetings in Osaka at the end of June, so there is hope that the two sides will make amends by then. The challenges to a trade deal would probably grow if the two administrations can’t reach an agreement, so most probably things will get worse before they get better”, Ntalakos concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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