Friday, January 28

China: visit of officials from four Gulf countries in the midst of the energy crisis

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during an official visit to Kenya, in Mombasa on January 6, 2022 Tony KARUMBA

Officials from four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries begin a five-day visit to China on Monday, amid skyrocketing oil costs, on which the Asian giant is heavily dependent for its economy.

China is the world’s largest importer of crude. The global economic recovery has in recent months led to a sharp rise in the prices of all energies, in particular gas and oil.

Given the high demand globally and disruption related to the pandemic, Beijing is worried about its supply.

At the invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, his counterparts from four Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain – are in China until Friday, according to a statement from Chinese diplomacy.

The document does not provide any details about the program. Visits by foreign diplomats to China have been rare for two years given the epidemic crisis.

According to the English-language daily Global Times, the visit could allow “progress” in the discussions around a free trade agreement between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The GCC comprises six countries: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

In recent years, China has sought to strengthen its ties with the Gulf countries. In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to more than double trade with the region by 2023.

This visit comes at a time when unrest in neighboring Kazakhstan, a member of OPEC +, is heating up oil prices.

Investors fear possible supply disruptions.

The country is the largest oil producer in Central Asia, with the 12th proven reserves of crude in the world, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA). Kazakhstan produced some 1.8 million barrels per day in 2020.

In November, China announced it was drawing on its oil reserves to lower prices, taking over from an initiative launched by US President Joe Biden.

It was a rare improvement in Sino-US relations.

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