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Russia-India-China will be the big G20 hit

Russia-India-China will be the big G20 hit

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) hug during their meeting before a session of the Heads of State Council of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: AFP / Grigory Sysoev / Sputnik

Russia-India-China will be the big G20 hit

India under Modi, an essential cog in US strategy, gets cozy with China and Russia

It all started with the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping summit in Moscow on June 5. Far from a mere bilateral, this meeting upgraded the Eurasian integration process to another level. The Russian and Chinese presidents discussed everything from the progressive interconnection of the New Silk Roads with the Eurasia Economic Union, especially in and around Central Asia, to their concerted strategy for the Korean Peninsula.

A particular theme stood out: They discussed how the connecting role of Persia in the Ancient Silk Road is about to be replicated by Iran in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And that is non-negotiable. Especially after the Russia-China strategic partnership, less than a month before the Moscow summit, offered explicit support for Tehran signaling that regime change simply won’t be accepted, diplomatic sources say.

Putin and Xi solidified the roadmap at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. And the Greater Eurasia interconnection continued to be woven immediately after at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, with two essential interlocutors: India, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO member, and SCO observer Iran.

At the SCO summit we had Putin, Xi, Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sitting at the same table. Hanging over the proceedings, like concentric Damocles swords, were the US-China trade war, sanctions on Russia, and the explosive situation in the Persian Gulf.

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Two Events That Will Determine Oil Prices

Two Events That Will Determine Oil Prices

offshore rig

Two big events over the next two weeks will determine the trajectory for oil prices in the second half of the year. One of those events will take place in Japan, the other in Austria.

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet Chinese President Xi Jingping on the sidelines of the G-20 conference next week in Osaka, Japan. Nothing less than the health of the global economy hangs in the balance.

Both leaders have powerful forces pulling them in opposite directions. On the one hand, both have a domestic political constituency invested in confrontation, or, at least, in not backing down from a trade fight. Neither wants to lose face. Trump campaigned on taking on China, and at least part of his political base may be disappointed if he comes home short of victory. In Beijing, Xi is also under tremendous pressure. The protests in Hong Kong leave him little room for error, and being seen as backing down to Trump would be highly damaging.

However, both leaders are also under pressure to end the trade war. Trump has a presidential election right around the corner, and farm country has been hit hard by sinking agricultural prices related to tariffs. China’s economy has also been hit hard by American tariffs, so Xi would likely be relieved to reach a compromise.

The stakes are high. The global economy is slowing down. Manufacturing data is weak, the auto market has slumped badly, trade volumes are sharply down globally. If the talks fail and the U.S. and China decide to escalate the pressure – Trump has threatened to hike tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods – a full-blown recession is possible.

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On The Road to a Post-G20 World

On The Road to a Post-G20 World

The trade war launched by the Trump administration against China may not have been solved by a 2½-hour dinner between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump at the G20 in Buenos Aires on Saturday. But it may have opened a path towards a drastic realignment.

Way beyond the histrionics surrounding the “family pic” – and whose nods and winks signaled surefire geopolitical capital – the G20 walked and talked like a last gasp to “save” the current turbo-capitalist world (dis)order.

The sherpas at the G20 lost sleep for two consecutive nights trying to come up with a final declaration capable of appeasing Trump. As virtually every nation at the G20 supports multilateralism on trade, nobody wanted to upset even more the real Big Boss in Buenos Aires: Xi Jinping.

The climax in any case was the U.S.-China bilateral – which carried the potential, if things went downhill, to derail the global economy.

The White House spin was on immediate negotiations – lasting 90 days – over forced transfers of U.S. technology to China; intellectual property protection; an array of non-tariff barriers; and alleged Chinese cyber “intrusions”. If there’s no deal, Washington will raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 25 percent.

Xi and Trump at G20. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Now compare that with the key take away from Beijing, with Wang Yi, the vastly experienced Chinese Foreign Minister, describing the dinner conversation as “friendly and candid.” There were also no specifics on how substantial the allegedly “immediate” Chinese buying of American agricultural, energy and industrial products will be.

Wang, defiant, outspoken, and an expert on Japan, was promoted to state councillor last year, which means the Ministry of Foreign Affairs now has much more clout over other key Chinese institutions.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present


Apparently one additional world leader turned up in Buenos Aires without fanfare this weekend. The General Secretary of the North Pole, known popularly as Santa Claus, took his latest-model hypersonic sleigh to the G-20 Meeting, and made sure that the global financial elite would find their Christmas stockings stuffed with sugarplums one last time before the great reflation bull market dies of incredulity.

Something drastic was required as so many enterprises were skidding into a ditch last month, especially FAANGs, cars, house sales, and oil, while the Grand Old Man of the Dow Jones, General Electric, was singing its death song like an old Arikara chief in the prairie twilight. The US threat of 25 percent tariffs on Chinese exports was shunted ahead 90 days, giving the almighty algos and their human errand boys one last shot at looting the future.

How exactly will this change the basic equation of China sending its industrial output to WalMart in exchange for American IOUs, while the trade deficit mounts ever-higher and the last holdouts of the US middle class sink into debt, addiction, and hopelessness? It won’t, of course, because Americans have to find another reason to get up in the morning besides reporting to the national demolition derby. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t warm my heart to hear about x-hundred thousand “housing starts” every month, knowing that it represents the destruction of x-thousand acres of meadow, field, and forest, and that what’s being laid down on the landscape out there is soul-crushing infrastructure with no future.

It’s not hard to see why US life expectancy is going down, driven by the two new leading causes of death: opiate drugs and suicide — the former often in the service of the latter.

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G20 and the financial war

G20 and the financial war

This weekend, the G20 nations meet at Buenos Aires. The most important issue will be America’s use of trade policy, ostensibly to bring an end to China’s unfair trade practices. Rather, it could mark a significant milestone in the cold war against China and drive the global economy into a slump.

Introduction

President Trump initiated the trade war with China. There is a widespread assumption he is pursuing his “art of the deal”, coming into negotiations aggressively to get a satisfactory compromise. Therefore, the script goes, China will be forced to climb down on its restrictive practices, technology and patent theft, and modify its Made in China 2025 (MiC2025) initiative to open it to American corporations. Trade negotiators from both sides have been working in the background to achieve some sort of progress before Presidents Trump and Xi meet at the G20 this weekend, which buoys up hopes of a positive outcome.

If so, it will be the start of a more public process, perhaps with threatened trade tariffs deferred. Meanwhile, the rhetoric on tariffs has escalated in recent weeks, as is often the case in negotiations when President Trump is involved, and particularly when deadlines loom. But there are concerns the situation is more serious than this optimistic version of events would have us believe.

This article briefs readers about the bigger picture behind this trade spat, which is just one battle in an ongoing financial conflict between China and America. Worryingly, it takes place against a deteriorating economic outlook for the world’s largest trading bloc, the EU.

The trade tariff position

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Oil Prices Set To Book Worst Month In A Decade

Oil Prices Set To Book Worst Month In A Decade

Refinery

Oil prices dropped early on Friday, on course to finish their worst month since 2008, as fears of oversupply and slowing demand growth dragged oil down into a bear market in November with prices off by some 30 percent from four-year highs in early October.

At 07:10 a.m. EDT on Friday, WTI Crude was down 1.81 percent at $50.52, and Brent Crudetraded down 1.47 percent at $59.03.

On Thursday, oil prices jumped on reports that Russia had conceded that it needs to reduce oil production and join a new Saudi-led OPEC cut to balance the market.

The rise didn’t last long—prices headed down again on Friday, pressured by rising U.S. oil production and comments by Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who said in an interview with the TASS news agency that “To me, the current price range is comfortable for producers and consumers.”

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin also signaled that Moscow is okay with oil prices at their current levels.

Russia is comfortable with oil at around $60, Putin said, a week ahead of the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna and just two days before the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

In his interview with TASS published on Friday, Novak, as usual, was elusive about Russia’s position about a new production cut, and said that Moscow will have its stance ready by the December 6-7 meeting.

Before the OPEC/non-OPEC meeting, the oil market will be looking for clues about global economy and trade at this weekend’s G-20 summit. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet on the sidelines of the event to discuss the trade war. Putin, for his part, is expected to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the two may discuss the OPEC-Russia oil cooperation, days ahead of the OPEC+ meeting.

The next few days could provide some major catalyst for oil prices.

G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item: Bye-Bye American Empire

G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item: Bye-Bye American Empire

G20 Summit, Top Agenda Item: Bye-Bye American Empire

The G20 summits are nominally about how the world’s biggest national economies can cooperate to boost global growth. This year’s gathering – more than ever – shows, however, that rivalry between the US and China is center stage.

Zeroing in further still, the rivalry is an expression of a washed-up American empire desperately trying to reclaim its former power. There is much sound, fury and pretense from the outgoing hegemon – the US – but the ineluctable reality is an empire whose halcyon days are a bygone era.

Ahead of the summit taking place this weekend in Argentina, the Trump administration has been issuing furious ultimatums to China to “change its behavior”. Washington is threatening an escalating trade war if Beijing does not conform to American demands over economic policies.

President Trump has taken long-simmering US complaints about China to boiling point, castigating Beijing for unfair trade, currency manipulation, and theft of intellectual property rights. China rejects this pejorative American characterization of its economic practices.

Nevertheless, if Beijing does not comply with US diktats then the Trump administration says it will slap increasing tariffs on Chinese exports.

The gravity of the situation was highlighted by the comments this week of China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, who warned that the “lessons of history” show trade wars can lead to catastrophic shooting wars. He urged the Trump administration to be reasonable and to seek a negotiated settlement of disputes.

The problem is that Washington is demanding the impossible. It’s like as if the US wants China to turn the clock back to some imagined former era of robust American capitalism. But it is not in China’s power to do that. The global economy has shifted structurally away from US dominance. The wheels of production and growth are in China’s domain of Eurasia.

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India Defies US, Signs $5.4BN Arms Deal With Russia Amid Promises Of Closer Ties

In what amounts to Russia’s latest act of defiance against the US and its Western allies, and a sign that India is slowly moving away from the US sphere of influence, New Delhi has signed a $5.4 billion deal for the delivery of five S-400 weapons systems, one of Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft weapons, RT reported. The deal risks provoking more sanctions against Russia from the US. The arms deal was finalized at a summit involving Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi.

Because of the purchase, India now risks being sanctioned under Washington’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which prohibits the purchase of arms from Russia. After his meeting with Modi, Putin said during a joint press conference that Russia would work with India to boost bilateral cooperation in the UN, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the G20. Putin added that the two countries would coordinate counter-terrorism efforts, and the two leaders also signed a deal on space cooperation, with Modi saying that he hoped Russia would help India send astronauts into space by 2022. 

Russia

The two countries also plan to cooperate on counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, as well as the status of the Iran nuclear deal. Russia has always “stood shoulder-to-shoulder with India in the energy sector and our goals,” Putin said.

The arms deal was signed during a period of increased trade between Russian and India, with total trade exceeding $9 billion last year. That figure is expected to rise as the two countries hope to encourage cross-border investment. By 2030, Putin said, he hopes to increase trade to $30 billion and investments by $15 billion.

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Why Free Trade is Officially Dead

G20 Finance ministers meeting in Baden Baden last weekend agreed, on America’s insistence, to drop the long-standing commitment to free trade from the final communiqué.

It is hard to know to what extent America’s position is driven by her autarkic view on world trade, or to what extent it is an acknowledgement of the fruitlessness of paying lip-service to an ideal which is never delivered. Doubtless, it’s a bit of both.

It is certainly true that finance ministers in the advanced nations have always shown a protectionist attitude towards international trade, protectionism that has intensified through attacks on American international corporations, which to a large extent can choose where to pay their taxes. The thrust of research by international NGOs, particularly the Paris-based OECD, has been to decry tax competition; however, even though it has bullied tax-havens to supply tax-related information to revenue-hungry states, it has failed to stop multinationals, armed with teams of tax lawyers, from complying with their statist demands.

Therefore, the reasons for anti-globalisation in high-spending governments so far have been based on job protection and maximising taxes. But with President Trump, it’s different. He wants to tilt the odds firmly in favour of American business, and he appears to believe that the World Trade Organisation is little more than an obstructive repository for anti-business bureaucrats. This view is misinformed, because over the years WTO officials have successfully managed to get their members to reduce tariffs to historically low levels.

The threat to this progress is not new. America has in the past often ignored WTO rules, banning or imposing tariffs on imports on overtly protectionist grounds. As always, vested interests and protectionism prove difficult for politicians to resist. However, Trump is different in one respect: he appears to be an old-fashioned mercantilist, seeing America as one gigantic commercial enterprise needing direction.

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China Moves Forward with Its De-Dollarization Strategy

China Moves Forward with Its De-Dollarization Strategy 

The world monetary order is changing. Slowly but steadily, global trade and currency markets are becoming less dollar-centric. Formerly marginal currencies such as the Chinese yuan now stand to become serious competitors to U.S. dollar dominance.

Could gold also begin to emerge as a leading currency in world trade? Over time, it certainly could. But the more immediate implications for gold’s monetary role center on its increasing accumulation by central banks such as China’s.

As of October 1st, the Chinese yuan has entered the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Right (SDR) basket of top-tier currencies. It now shares SDR status with the U.S. dollar, euro, British pound, and Japanese yen.

Before the yuan officially becomes an SDR currency, the World Bank intends to sell $2.8 billion in SDR bonds in Chinese markets. The rollout of SDR bonds in China began August 31st. According to Reuters, China’s promotion of SDR bonds “is part of a wider push in China to… boost demand for Chinese yuan and diminish reliance on the U.S. dollar in global reserves.”

King Dollar won’t be dethroned overnight. But the place of prominence the U.S. dollar enjoys as the world’s reserve currency will indeed diminish over time.

Yuan’s Inclusion in the SDR Currency Basket: Merely a Part of China’s De-Dollarization Strategy

China and Russia have mutual geostrategic interests in helping to promote de-dollarization. Toward that end, the two powers are engaging in bilateral trade deals that bypass the dollar. Annual bilateral trade between China and Russia has surged from $16 billion in 2003 to nearly $100 billion today. When China hosted the G20 summit in September, it will make Russian President Vladimir Putin its premier guest of honor.

U.S. officials are none too pleased. They fear Putin aims to expand his global reach by forging stronger ties with China.

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Don’t listen to the ruling elite: the world economy is in real trouble

Andy Xie says those attending the G20, Davos and other wasteful meetings are wrong to try to pin the blame for the turmoil on people’s psychology; all signs point to a prolonged period of global stagnation and instability

The G20 working group meeting in Shanghai didn’t come up with any constructive proposals for reviving the global economy and, instead, complained that the recent market turmoil didn’t reflect the “underlying fundamentals of the global economy”. The oil price has declined by 70 per cent since June 2014, while the Brazilian real has halved, and the Russian rouble is down by 60 per cent. The global economy is on the cusp of another recession, and these important people blamed it all on some sort of psychological problem of the people.

One major complaint that people have is that the system is rigged – that is, the rising income concentration is not due to free market competition, but a rigged system that favours the politically powerful. This is largely true. The new billionaires over the past two decades have come mostly from finance and property. Few made it the way Steve Jobs or Bill Gates did, creating something that makes people more productive.
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The Pitfalls of Currency Manipulation – A History of Interventionist Failure

Readers may recall that the last G20 pow-wow (see “The Gasbag Gabfest” for details) featured an uncharacteristic lack of grandiose announcements, a fact we welcomed with great relief. The previously announced “900 plans” which were supposedly going to create “economic growth” by government decree seemed to have disappeared into the memory hole. These busybodies deciding to do nothing, is obviously the best thing that can possibly happen.
1-USDCNY(Weekly)Yuan, weekly – since the sharp move in USDCNY in August, market participants have begun to worry about the yuan and China’s shrinking foreign exchange reserves – click to enlarge.

There have been rumors though that they did at least strike some sort of sub rosa agreement with respect to the future course of yuan manipulation. In other words, some kind of policy coordination between China and other major currency issuers has quite possibly been agreed upon, even if only tacitly. Officially, China merely used the occasion to “reassure trading partners on foreign exchange”:

“Chinese policymakers on Thursday ruled out an imminent devaluation of the yuan as they seek to reassure trading partners ahead of the G20 summit that they can manage market stability while driving structural reforms.”

When global stock markets swooned in late August 2015 and again in January 2016, the decline in the yuan’s exchange rate was widely blamed as the cause.  Considering various central bank policy decisions announced since the G20 meeting, it does appear as though a coordinated move aimed at halting the yuan’s slide and support wobbly risk asset prices has been underway.

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Confronting the Fiscal Bogeyman

Confronting the Fiscal Bogeyman

BERKELEY – The world economy is visibly sinking, and the policymakers who are supposed to be its stewards are tying themselves in knots. Or so suggest the results of the G-20 summit held in Shanghai at the end of last month.

The International Monetary Fund, having just downgraded its forecast for global growth, warned the assembled G-20 attendees that yet another downgrade was pending. Despite this, all that emerged from the meeting was an anodyne statement about pursuing structural reforms and avoiding beggar-thy-neighbor policies.

Once again, monetary policy was left – to use the now-familiar phrase – as the only game in town. Central banks have kept interest rates low for the better part of eight years. They have experimented with quantitative easing. In their latest contortion, they have moved real interest rates into negative territory.

The motivation is sound: someone needs to do something to keep the world economy afloat, and central banks are the only agents capable of acting. The problem is that monetary policy is approaching exhaustion. It is not clear that interest rates can be depressed much further.

Negative rates, moreover, have begun to impair the health of the banking system. Charging banks for the privilege of holding reserves raises their cost of doing business. Because households can resort to safe-deposit boxes, it’s hard for banks to charge depositors for safekeeping their funds.

In a weak economy, moreover, banks have little ability to pass on their costs via higher lending rates. In Europe, where experimentation with negative interest rates has gone furthest, bank distress is clearly visible.

The solution is straightforward. It is to fix the problem of deficient demand not by attempting to further loosen monetary conditions, but by boosting public spending. Governments should borrow to invest in research, education, and infrastructure. Currently, such investments cost little, given low interest rates.

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The G-20s Big Fat Zero——Now Comes The Bubble’s Demise!

The G-20s Big Fat Zero——Now Comes The Bubble’s Demise!

So doing, they essentially admitted that their money printing central banks are out of dry powder (“…but monetary policy alone cannot lead to balanced growth”) and that they are divided and confused on the fiscal front.

Indeed, the best result of the weekend is that the gaggle of G-20 statists acquiesced to Germany’s absolute “nein” on the foolish notion that a world self-evidently drowning in debt can still borrow its way back to prosperity. With respect to that ragged Keynesian shibboleth, Germany’s intrepid finance minister left nothing to the imagination:

Germany had made it clear it was not keen on new stimulus, with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble saying on Friday the debt-financed growth model had reached its limits.

“It is even causing new problems, raising debt, causing bubbles and excessive risk taking, zombifying the economy,” he said…….“Fiscal as well as monetary policy has reached their limit.”

So this is not about a failed G-20 meeting; its about the end of a vast, long-running policy scam conducted by global officialdom and their central bankers. In a word, they did not save the world in 2008-2009 with the “courage” of extraordinary policies. They just temporarily buried the symptoms by resort to crank monetary theories and fiscal snake oil.

Indeed, every bit of the financial rot owing to the mutation of financial markets into debt-fueled gambling casinos and the vast economic deformations and malinvestments fostered by massive central bank financial repression prior to the 2008 financial crisis is still with us. Except it has subsequently metastasized into an even more egregious and incendiary form.

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The FX Mexican Standoff

Theodor Horydczak Lincoln Memorial 1925

There has been quite a bit of talk lately over the need for a new Plaza Accord, something several parties saw happening during this weekend’s G20 summit in Shanghai -hence the term ‘Shanghai Accord’-. (On September 22, 1985 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, France, West Germany, Japan, the US, and the UK signed an accord to depreciate the US dollar vs the Japanese yen and German Deutschmark by intervening in currency markets).

Unless all the G20 finance ministers and central bankers gathered in China are in close and secretive cahoots, though, it doesn’t look like it is going to happen. And that seems to both make sense and not. What those advocating such an accord are calling for is a -large- devaluation of the Chinese yuan (RMB) vs the USD and yen -perhaps even the euro-, but the climate simply doesn’t look ripe for it.

Still, the problem is, if they don’t do it, they open the doors to a whole lot more volatility, unpredictability and losses in the markets. All things that those markets do not want. Because, like it or not, the yuan is overvalued, China’s fabricated trade numbers are increasingly under scrutiny, and a large devaluation could settle things at least for a while.

However, Beijing looks too full of hubris and pride -and inclusion in the IMF basket of currencies is an issue too- to do what seems natural. Lest we forget, no matter how much China seeks to obfuscate the numbers, everybody already knows that numbers like producer prices and exports, and most importantly imports, have seen steep falls, and for a long time too.

China’s oil tanks look as close to overflowing as the American ones, and without those oil imports, who knows who bad import numbers would have looked?

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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