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    Yuan banknotes and US dollars are seen on a table in Yichang, central China's Hubei province on August 14, 2015

    De-Dollarization: Who Stands in the Way of Beijing's Own Crude Futures

    © AFP 2019 / STR
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    "Why does Beijing still hesitate to kick off its oil futures trading on the Shanghai International Energy Exchange?" Mexican political analyst Alfredo Jalife-Rahme asks.

    According to Professor Alfredo Jalife-Rahme of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the US hybrid war against Russia and China has reached a new level and is being openly waged by Washington in three specific spheres: energy, finance and currency — let alone cyber and propaganda campaigns.

    In this light the plan to create a Russian oil benchmark announced in November 2015 immediately prompted a lively debate.

    "The move is part of a longer-term strategy of decoupling Russia's economy and especially its very significant export of oil, from the US dollar, today the Achilles Heel of the Russian economy… It is part of a de-dollarization move that Russia, China and a growing number of other countries have quietly begun," American researcher, historian and strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl wrote in his January article for New Eastern Outlook.

    Russian officials point to more pragmatic reasons: Russian-produced Urals and ESPO are traded cheaper against Brent because of the lack of a transparent pricing mechanisms and delivery guarantees.

    To cope with the problem Russia decided to create an oil benchmark that will be traded on the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX) to make domestic-produced oil grades more liquid and expensive.

    According to St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX) Executive Vice President Mikhail Temnichenko, it is expected that SPIMEX will start trading deliverable Urals futures in November, 2016.

    Meanwhile, "the wait for China's first oil futures contract in more than 20 years isn't over yet," Bloomberg wrote in November 2015 and throughout 2016 the wait continued.

    Jalife-Rahme narrates that China has long been seeking to diminish its oil price dependence on the New-York and London Stock Exchanges. Back in 1993 the Chinese government introduced its first domestic crude contract but it halted it a year later due to an overhaul of its energy industry.

    Over the past 20 years China has undergone tremendous economic growth. The country is now buying almost 7.9 million barrels per day. Furthermore, since the beginning of the year China's oil imports have increased by 8.3 percent.

    Why does Beijing hesitate to start its oil futures contract now?

    According to the professor, the crux of the matter is that China's dramatic economic growth prompts serious concerns in the West, particularly in Washington.

    China's plan to strengthen the positions of the yuan (renminbi) as an alternative reserve currency has not received praise from the US financial elite, and with reason: the American financial superiority depends on the dollar's dominance.

    After the IMF gave its nod to the yuan's inclusion in the basket of reserve currencies in November 2015, the clouds continued to gather on Beijing's horizon.

    Jalife-Rahme calls attention to the fact that in the course of the latest financial clash between the dollar and the yuan, China waved good-bye to $100 billion of its currency reserves. It was a tangible blow for Beijing, although China's reserves remain one of the largest in the world.

    The currency war has made Beijing more cautious, according to the professor. Apparently, therefore, the Chinese leadership decided to postpone its oil contract launch that could be seen by the US financial establishment as a new challenge to the dollar.

    And still Beijing continues to push ahead with its project of internationalizing of the yuan.

    "Taking another step toward increasing transparency in its massive foreign exchange market and internationalizing the yuan, China announced Friday it had given approval to the first batch of foreign commercial banks that want to directly trade in the currency," International Business Time reported last week.

    At the same time experts insist that Beijing will sooner or later start crude futures as the Chinese need more influence in oil pricing. And there is yet another argument in favor of this stance: the country is not only an oil consumer but it is one of the world's five largest crude producers with 32 billion barrels of potential shale oil reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

    In this context Barack Obama's decision to lift the US' arms embargo on Vietnam, one of China's closest neighbors looks especially sinister, according to Jalife-Rahme.

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    Tags:
    Oil, petrodollar recycling system, renminbi, crude, yuan, St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX), Mikhail Temnichenko, China, United States, Russia
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