China keen to seek benefits from pandemic, distressed U.S. assets: report

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers and policymakers should be wary of China’s moves to target vulnerable U.S. assets and expand its market share in the wake of the global economic crisis triggered by the novel coronavirus, according to a study prepared for a U.S. trade group and released on Tuesday.

The Horizon Advisory report for the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) said the Chinese Communist Party viewed the crisis as “a chance to expand its position in U.S. markets, supply chains and critical infrastructure.”

The consultancy said Beijing used the 2008-2009 global financial crisis to accelerate its “Go Out” industrial offensive in the United States, and was positioning to benefit from a likely spike in U.S. infrastructure spending.

“It’s a very sophisticated strategy,” AAM President Scott Paul said in an interview. “There’s a very legitimate debate that needs to occur about the appropriate role of Beijing in the U.S. economy, and there are reasons to be wary of including Chinese state-owned enterprises in our recovery effort.”

Paul said his lobby group was working with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to strengthen and expand provisions that earmark government funds for U.S. companies, and ensure they do not wind up in the hands of Chinese state-owned firms or investors.

The group was formed in 2007 by U.S. companies and the United Steelworkers to push for policies to expand U.S. manufacturing.

U.S. President Donald Trump has long pledged to bring manufacturing back from overseas, but the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a government-wide push to move U.S. production and supply chain dependency away from China.

Paul said the report showed China had identified “friendly” public officials and states including Kentucky, home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which has attracted increased Chinese investment in recent years.

Chinese acquisitions have come under greater U.S. scrutiny to determine their effect on national security, but takeovers could increase if the crisis left many distressed assets, as expected, he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Chang)

Iran determined to regain oil market share

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Gulf

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran is determined to recover its share of the world oil market following the lifting of sanctions, and can withstand low prices since it has sold oil for as little as $6 a barrel in the past, a source close to Iranian oil policy said.

The source was speaking after Russia, one of the participants at last weekend’s meeting of oil producing nations which failed to deliver an agreement to freeze output, indicated it could raise supply.

“We paid for our barrels with our centrifuges,” the source said, referring to Iran’s acceptance of curbs on its nuclear program in order for Western sanctions on Tehran to be lifted.

“We are going to get our share back. For us, oil is only 12 percent of our GDP. We used to sell oil in the war (between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s) at $6 a barrel.”

He added any agreement to restrain supply at the next OPEC meeting in June depended on Saudi Arabia and non-member Russia.

“If June is going to produce an agreement, you have to ask Saudi Arabia and Russia. They are the problem.”

(Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Dmitry Zhdannikov and Mark Potter)