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What can Crude Oil Builds, Futures, and Stock Crashes tell us about the Global Financial System?

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According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), yesterday, the supply of crude oil crested 15.189 million barrels rounding the first week of December, bringing it ever closer to the 19.25 million barrel inventory that kickstarted an oil price crash in the height of the Coronavirus pandemic (OilPrice.com, 2020). Why is this significant to the global financial system? Stocks, in themselves, are a financial phenomenon and oil—at least at this point in time—fuels global transportation and production at nearly every level, which makes this commodity a prime example to witness politico-economics in action.

The dramatic fall of crude oil stocks in April 2020 presented one the most dramatic drops in any commodity in an exceptionally long time:“…the front month WTI [West Texas Intermediate] contract was sitting at minus $38.45/barrel, down an eye-watering 310.45% on the day” (The Balance, 2020). While it had serious impacts on the oil-exporting countries, the most notable aspect of these effects can actually be seen in the ‘on the spot’ prices (Oil Market Report April 2020) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2020). In other words, the prices that turned negative during this time were actually future prices bought on the Crude Oil Futures Exchange, that is the contracts for the delivery of a specific quantity of crude oil (in terms of barrels) (TheOptionsGuide.com, 2020). Because all of the products were nearly full (particularly with people unable to travel in the height of the pandemic fewer cars, flights, ships needed fuel), the producers then did not know where to store it and found themselves with an egregious surplus and negligible demand.

In this scenario, those who suffered the most from the negative oil prices were not the oil consumers, but those investors who had previously bought futures for April 2020 (Hamilton, 2020). Typically, they can sell these futures for other investors, always in the hope that the price for oil will rise; however, this is precisely what did not happen in April. Instead, the price of oil was very high, but the demand was very low.

Ultimately, the supply surplus due to Coronavirus conditions effectively took millions of barrels out of local demand—and on top of this, a price-war ensued between Saudi Arabia and Russia further exacerbating the phenomenon (CNBC, 2020).Up until this point, both Saudi Arabia and Russia had been dampening production as a means of maintaining a higher price and therefore maximising profits on the basis of high demand. When this tenuous arrangement unraveled in the absence of demand, Saudi Arabia reversed their position (and decided to release supply controls)to become cheaper than Russia which culminated in “the release of another million barrels per day on the global market… causing the price to sink to 18-year lows” (Fortune, 2020).

Although futures bounced back within the month of April, the scenario stirs previously unthinkable hypothetical questions (ETAuto.com, 2020): Would long-term negative futures become an incentive to diversity economies dominated by oil, gas, and petroleum? Or would the surplus of oil on the market lessen incentives to ‘go green’? Although either of these scenarios is unlikely given that that the timeframe was too short for any structural changes such as these to occur, the example illustrates the unique way in which instruments of the finance sector such as “futures” or “options” ricochet into politics – such as we see between major oil producers (like the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Russia) and major oil consumers (such as the United States, China, India, Japan, and the European Union) (EIA, 2020). Does December’s crude oil build herald a softer price crash? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: the greater the fluctuation in oil prices, the more politics will rattle between oil-producing countries (with and without commodity diversification) as well as with the countries that predominantly consume it.

References

  • CNBC. 2020. Charts that Explain the Saudi Arabia-Russia Oil Price War So Far. [online] Available at: <https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/01/5-charts-that-explain-the-saudi-arabia-russia-oil-price-war-so-far.html> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • DNA India. 2020. In Historic First, US Crude Oil Price Plunges Below Zero As COVID-19 Pandemic Hits Demands. [online] Available at: <https://www.dnaindia.com/business/report-in-historic-first-us-crude-oil-price-plunges-below-zero-as-covid-19-pandemic-hits-demands-2821871> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Eia.gov. 2020. Frequently Asked Questions (Faqs) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). [online] Available at: <https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=709&t=6> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Eia.gov. 2020. Oil Market Report (April 2020) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). [online] Available at: <https://www.iea.org/reports/oil-market-report-april-2020> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • ETAuto.com. 2020. Oil Prices Bounce Back, After Ending Negative for The First Time In History – ET Auto. [online] Available at: <https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/oil-and-lubes/oil-prices-bounce-back-u-s-crude-futures-trade-above-zero/75262811> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Fortune. 2020. ‘Unreal’: Oil Prices Go Negative for The First Time In History. [online] Available at: <https://fortune.com/2020/04/20/oil-prices-negative-crash-price-crude-market/> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Hamilton, J., 2020. Oil Prices, Exhaustible Resources, and Economic Growth. National Bureau of Economic Research. [online] pp.1-32. Available at: <https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w17759/w17759.pdf> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • The Balance. 2020. Crude Oil Impacts Everything You Buy. [online] Available at: <https://www.thebalance.com/crude-oil-prices-trends-and-impact-on-the-economy-and-you-3305738> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Theoptionsguide.com. 2020. Crude Oil Futures Trading Basics | The Options & Futures Guide. [online] Available at: <https://www.theoptionsguide.com/crude-oil-futures.aspx> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Oil, C., 2020. Oil Plunges After EIA Reports Huge Crude Build | Oilprice.Com. [online] OilPrice.com. Available at: <https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Oil-Crashes-After-EIA-Reports-Largest-Crude-Build-Ever.html> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
  • Sek, S., Teo, X. and Wong, Y., 2015. A Comparative Study on the Effects of Oil Price Changes on Inflation. Procedia Economics and Finance, 26, pp.630-636.
  • Worldoil.com. 2020. Saudi Arabia And Russia End Their Oil-Price War with Output Cut Agreement. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldoil.com/news/2020/4/9/saudi-arabia-and-russia-end-their-oil-price-war-with-output-cut-agreement> [Accessed 10 December 2020].

J.M. Jakus is an independent writer, researcher, and editor with a focus on Human Rights, Geopolitics, Global Political Economy (GPE), and International Relations. With a background in photojournalism, empirical research, and long-form academic publications, Jakus is currently pursuing a postgraduate degree from Boğaziçi Üniversitesi in İstanbul, Turkey with the program, International Relations: Europe, Turkey, and the Middle East. More about Jakus' writings can be found at www.jmjakus.live.

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Friend-shoring: India’s rising attractiveness for an emerging partnership

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There are numerous forces currently affecting investment flows in the global climate for foreign investment. Investor concern has been caused by the many geopolitical issues, which had repercussions even as countries were recovering from the pandemic. Businesses are being forced to re-evaluate the global business environment and potential fault lines as a result of these disruptions. India has constantly improved the business environment (EoDB). It may now advance by utilising the advantages to strengthen its place in the global economy and fulfil the ambitions of its sizable, primarily young population. The country’s business and investment climate has significantly improved as a result of the fast and steady pace at which reforms have been implemented.

Apart from the fact that India is one of the largest economies in the world with the quickest rate of growth, the government’s emphasis on infrastructure and manufacturing, strong consumption patterns, digitization, and a burgeoning services sector all contribute to this optimism. The persistent efforts of the Indian government to lower regulatory hurdles are also fuelling MNCs’ favourable opinion of India. However, India’s expanding domestic consumer base and digital economy are the greater draws. After the US and China, the estimated actual growth in consumption is the third-highest. Given that all of these markets are sizable but relatively saturated and growing at a slower rate, India presents a particularly good opportunity for MNCs seeking growth opportunities in the ensuing ten years.This has acquired more traction in the US context as it has become clear that the nation cannot overcome all production issues on its own and that cooperation with friendly or ally nations is essential for all-around development. The term “friend-shoring,” a hybrid of the terms “onshoring” and “near shoring,” refers to forming business alliances with people who have similar principles and interests.

In a world driven extensively by globalisation, it is inevitable to not just make ally’s or create partnerships that are not only strategic and synergistic, but also facilitate a purpose driven iterative connection between two nations. A strategy used by the US to persuade companies to relocate their sourcing and manufacturing operations to friendly shores—often back to the same shores in the case of the US—is known as friend-shoring or ally-shoring. And the goal is to protect their supply networks against countries with less compatible policies, like China. But is it the best course of action? Global supply chains have changed production by enabling businesses to produce things wherever it is most affordable, thanks to decreased tariffs, lower transportation, and communication costs. This typically means that low-end production shifts to emerging markets and developing countries, while high-value-added inputs (such as research and development, design, advertising, and finance) are provided from established economies.

A commitment to cooperate with nations that “have a strong adherence to a set of norms and values about how to function in the global economy and about how to govern the global economic system” was described as “friend-shoring” in Secretary Yellen’s statements of April 13, 2022. But is it the best course of action? Any type of protectionism will worsen the already shaky global supply chain after the years-long Covid-19 shutdown has had an impact on the world economy. Despite its political unrest, China has been devoting its resources to manufacturing since the 1990s, and many businesses have already established manufacturing operations there since their suppliers are all nearby.

Even though Vietnam, India, and Thailand are also known for their low-cost manufacturing, moving the manufacturing sites could be expensive and risky for businesses because they would need to reorganise their entire supply chain for all materials required. In addition, other Asian countries might not have the full infrastructure needed to support manufacturing in some sectors. The world of today is at its best because of international cooperation. Each country’s disadvantage is made up for by having it use its greatest asset to boost global economic growth. Although there are many differences and even disagreements between nations and we are still far from full globalisation, offshoring does not seem like a good answer for a better future for the global supply.

USA is believed to pursue the “friend-shoring” strategy of deepening economic integration with dependable trading partners like India to diversify away from nations that pose geopolitical and security risks to supply chains. This is in response to an “extremely challenging” global economic outlook and geopolitical instability. She claimed that some economies’ debt loads were becoming unmanageable due to the Russia-Ukraine war-related spike in food and energy costs, and that steps to reduce these debt loads would need to be explored. Countries that already have well-established production and business service networks are those that are seen as friendly partners in the US context. India is attempting to draw MNCs that are moving their subsidiary supply chain networks and activities in this wave of supply chain restructuring and diversification of their specialised ecosystems.

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Pakistan’s elite and the current economic crisis

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Former Pakistan Finance Minister Miftah Ismail in a media interview made some very interesting points. While Ismail lashed out at his successor and current Finance Minister Ishaq Dar saying that the latter’s Anti International Monetary Fund (IMF) approach was one of the key reasons behind the current economic crisis in Pakistan. He also underscored some other points.

 First, he said that if countries like Bangladesh and India have left Pakistan behind, there are some serious deficiencies in Pakistan’s governance model.

Second, Ismail stated that different forms of government – democracy, parliamentary democracy, dictatorship – have been tried out, but the country is invariably ruled by a small elite, and this is amongst the key reasons for the numerous challenges the country is facing today.

In recent years, has been increasing criticism of Pakistan’s foreign policy and its excessive economic dependence upon other countries for its economic survival.  While earlier strategic commentators and analysts questioned the skewed nature of Pakistan’s ties with the US, in recent years several strategic commentators have begun to question the excessive dependence upon Islamabad and the terms and conditions of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the lack of transparency of the project.

If one were to look at the current economic crisis which has engulfed Pakistan, there have been a series of opinion pieces critical of domestic policies, the country’s dependence upon external sources for aid not just the US, but also Gulf Countries and China and how the IMF rescue program would impact certain sections of the population more than others.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani diplomat, and a prominent writer and commentator, in a hard hitting article titled Elite Politicsfor Dawn (December 5, 2022)argues:

‘The availability of external resources as a result of Pakistan’s foreign policy alignments during the Cold War and beyond created a habit of dependence on ‘outside help’. This habit urged successive governments — representing rural and urban elites — to avoid economic reform, mobilise adequate revenue or tax its network of influential supporters’. 

Touqir Hussain in an article An underwhelming foreign policy written for The News (November 23, 2022) highlights how Pakistan’s dependency upon China could harm the bilateral relationship. Says Hussain:

‘Because of the dependency syndrome, even the China connection has become ever more important for Pakistan, and not for all the right reasons. It is fomenting a popular view that with China at its back Pakistan does not need to care about other relationships, inciting anti-Americanism which has become in the public mind a badge of ‘independent’ foreign policy’.

S Akbar Zaidi in an article IMF as Saviour for the Dawn (January 26, 2023) makes an interesting point about how the unequal impact of the IMF program and how the elite would not just be able to deal with it but also benefit in the long run. Says Zaidi:

‘A fistful of dollars coming in, prices being upwardly adjusted, an exchange rate which is supposedly ‘market-driven’, will offer false hope to our elite while it grumbles about the tough measures of the IMF’. 

There has also been a suggestion to rethink Pakistan’s approach towards India and focus more on geo-economics. Shahzad Chaudhry, a prominent strategic commentator, in an opinion piece published in Express Tribune praised India’s foreign policy for managing to balance ties between the US and Russia, in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis. While praising India for having been able to strike a balance he dubbed this as diplomatic coup. Chaudhry also said that Pakistan should rethink its foreign policy vis-à-vis India and focus on ‘geo-economics’.

Pakistan PM, Shehbaz Sharif in an interview to Al Arabiya TV (a Dubai based channel) had himself stated that Pakistan could not afford another war with India and had also alluded to his willingness to resume talks (The Pakistan PMO however said that Pakistan would only resume talks with India if the latter reversed the decision to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir).

In conclusion, while Pakistan clearly has its task cut out if it is able to realize the pitfalls of excessive dependence upon external countries will it be able to put its economy firmly back on track. It is also important for Pakistan to strengthen economic ties with neighbours in South Asia rather than looking at the outside world. For this it will require Pakistani leaders to think out of the box.

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Guangdong special economic zones at China

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Guangdong Province in southern China is distinguished by the economic development. The sign been approached by “Made In Guangdong” is becoming so famous globally, besides the Guangdong industries and its unique culture.

  Guangdong represents one of the most important provinces of China for a number of political, economic, social and natural reasons. Indications of the success of the openness experiment pursued by China since the late seventies of the last century are evident in it.

Guangdong special economic zones have made great achievements. As the province with the largest economic output in China, south China’s Guangdong Province has achieved tremendous economic development in the past 40 years, thanks to the establishment of special economic zones.

 According to my information, the Guangdong region has established the “Zhuhai Doumen” intelligent manufacturing economic development zone recently, after the Guangdong Provincial Government officially approved the establishment of the “Zhuhai Doumen intelligent manufacturing economic development zone”, which will implement the existing provincial-level economic development zone policy.  It is the third regional economic development zone in “Zhuhai” after “Foshan Industrial Park and Liangang Industrial Zone”.

 Guangdong Province is an economic powerhouse in southern China, and the province will promote high-quality development this year by fostering new engines of growth and strengthening cooperation and communication in the regions of (Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay) to deepen reform and opening up.

 Guangdong Province, a major part of China’s foreign trade and industrial hub, accounts for about one-tenth of China’s GDP and is the largest of all Chinese provinces.

 Guangdong Province pays close attention to the progress of China’s modernization and the overall picture of reform and opening-up and major national strategic planning. It firmly attaches importance to the reform and opening-up policy by strengthening cooperation between the province and the “Hong Kong and Macao” regions, aligning the development of Guangdong with the “Northern Metropolis” plan of Hong Kong and the economic diversification strategy of Macao, implementing the “Greater Bay Area Connection” project in a more in-depth way, and working with “Hong Kong and Macao” together to build a world-class bay area, injecting vigor and strong impetus into its modernization efforts”.

 It Is remarkable that most of the cities of Guangdong Province are crowded with visitors from all over the world, especially Arabs and Africans, who come to them for the purpose of trade and search for investment. The province is considered one of the regions characterized by the diversity of its industries, quality and attractive prices, as well as commercial activities in various fields.

 It Is also distinguished by the beauty and sophistication of its buildings, which embody the aesthetics of modern Chinese architecture, as well as the spread of green spaces and vibrant squares throughout the day. It is also distinguished in terms of weather, with its atmosphere that resembles the tropical atmosphere with heavy rain, and the various cities of Guangdong Province are also characterized by easy access to it from different parts of the world throughout the day, as well as ease of movement between its various cities, thanks to the presence of an infrastructure that makes most of the cities of the province at the forefront of attractive cities for investment globally.

  Due to the existence of the commercial ports, Guangdong has a long experience in terms of commercial exchanges regionally and globally.

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