Posts Tagged ‘Erdgas’

Asien: Iran, USA und das TAPI-Pipeline-Projekt

Dienstag, November 22nd, 2011

“The Politics Of Gas Pipelines In Asia

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

21 November, 2011

On November 14, Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to build the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project under which Pakistan will get 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of gas. The agreement was signed during a visit by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan to Islamabad.

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline, first proposed in early 1990s, will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.

Under the proposed project, the 1,680 kilometre-long gas pipeline, backed by the Asian Development Bank, will bring 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (bcfd) from Turkmenistan’s gas fields to Multan and end at the northwestern Indian town of Fazilka. Under the agreement, Afghanistan’s share will be 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd), Pakistan’s share will be 1,325 mmcfd and India’s 1,325 mmcfd.

The original project started on 15 March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. This project was promoted by Argentinian company Bridas Corporation.

The U.S. company Unocal, in conjunction with the Saudi oil company Delta, promoted alternative project without Bridas’ involvement. In 1995, Unocal signed an $8 billion deal with Turkmenistan to construct two pipelines (one for oil, one for gas), as part of a larger plan for two pipelines intended to transport oil and gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into Pakistan. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal, was formed.

Since the pipeline was to pass through Afghanistan, it was necessary to work with the Taliban. In January 1998, the Taliban regime, selected CentGas over Argentinian competitor Bridas Corporation, and signed an agreement that allowed the proposed project to proceed.

In 1997, representatives of the Taliban are invited to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President George W. Bush is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials. According to the Daily Telegraph, “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.”

It was reported that the Taliban met with Enron officials while in Texas. Enron, headquartered in Texas, had a large financial interest in the pipeline at the time.

On April 17, 1998, Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul. (All such meetings were illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.) US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offers another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/2001]

On December 5, 1998, Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic.

Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]

The TAP project was revived less than one month after the 9/11 attacks when US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin meets (Oct 9, 2001) with the Pakistani oil minister to brief on the gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan, across Afghanistan, to Pakistan, which appears to be revived “in view of recent geopolitical developments.” [Frontier Post – 10/10/2011]

On May 30, 2002, Afghanistan’s interim leader, Hamid Karzai (who formerly worked for Unocal), Turkmenistan’s President Niyazov, and Pakistani President General Musharraf meet in Islamabad to sign a memorandum of understanding on the trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline project.

TAP is consistent with the US declared policy of linking Central and South Asia and diversifying export routes for Turkmen gas.

The proposed 1,680 kilometres pipeline could carry one trillion cubic metres of Turkmen gas over a 30-year period, according to Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Bayramgeldy Nedirov. But the route, particularly the 735 kilometres Afghan leg, presents significant security challenges.

In January 2009, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, then NATO Secretary General, said, “Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national responsibility. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there’s a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.” These comments suggest that NATO troops could be called upon to assist Afghanistan in protecting the pipeline. Since pipelines last 50 years or more, this could auger a very long commitment in Afghanistan. [Journal of Energy Security, March 23, 2010]

Interestingly, in February 2002 the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv pointed out: “If one looks at the map of the big American bases created [in the Afghan war], one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean.” [Chicago Tribune, 3/18/2002]

Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline

The trans-Afghanistan pipeline (TAPI) agreement was signed at a time when Washington is pressing Islamabad to abandon the pipeline project to supply Iranian gas to Pakistan.

Washington has never tried to hide its opposition to Pakistan`s plans for importing gas from Iran and has always pressured it to seek alternate options. The purpose has been to isolate Tehran in the region over its nuclear program. Apparently, it was under US pressure that India decided to opt out of the project in 2009. In return, New Delhi successfully secured US cooperation for its civil nuclear power projects in 2008.

In January 2010, the United States asked Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project. If canceling the project, Pakistan would receive assistance from the United States for construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal and importing electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor. [Times of India – Sept 7, 2009]

On April 12, 2010, Iran announced that it has completed construction of 1,000 kilometers of the pipeline out of the 1,100 kilometers portion on Iranian soil. On this Iranian ambassador to Pakistan said that "Iran has done her job and it now depends on Pakistan". The construction of the pipeline on Iranian side is on pace to be completed by 2011. On November 6, 2010, Iran announced that in view of energy crisis in Pakistan, Iran has already expedited the work on the Iranian part of the pipeline and the construction of the project is in its final stages on the Iranian side adding that "the ball is in Pakistan’s court now and it depends on them how long they take to complete work on the project". [Wikipedia]

According to newspaper reports on 17 June 2011, Iran has given up talks with India on the pipeline and is pursuing the pipeline bilaterally with Pakistan. In July 2011, Pakistani minister for petroleum and natural resources announced that Iran has finished its work on laying the pipeline and Pakistan would start the work for building the pipeline within the next six months.

In November 2010, a Wikileaks cable disclosed that American diplomats had said it was "unlikely that Iran would build a gas pipeline to Pakistan." Washington opposes the deal because of the economic benefits for Tehran, which has been subject to the United States and international community’s sanctions against Iran. The diplomatic cable noted that the planned pipeline would not move forward because, "the Pakistanis don’t have the money to pay for either the pipeline, or the gas." [Wikipedia]

The 2,775-kilometre (1,724 mi) pipeline will be supplied from the South Pars field. It will start from Asalouyeh and stretch over 1,100 kilometres (680 mi) through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Baluchistan and Sindh. In Khuzdar, a branch would spur-off to Karachi, while the main pipeline will continue towards Multan. From Multan, the pipeline may be expanded to India.

Commenting on the TAPI agreement, Pakistan’s leading newspaper The Nation said: “Pakistan seems to have succumbed to US pressure and sacrificed its national interest in pursuit of the American desire to bypass Iran.”

The paper said, apart from the relative merits of the projects, one of the biggest services the present government can perform for the USA is to give the impression that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline is in any way a substitute for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline. The Nation emphasized that Pakistan needs both the projects if it is to meet the gas shortages that have already hit the country in the past, and which will further worsen, reaching new heights this winter.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: email: asghazali2011 (@)


(Quelle: Countercurrents.)

Afrika: Mehr Waffen, weniger zivile Hilfe

Dienstag, Juli 13th, 2010

“Africa: No Butter, But Lots of Guns

By Conn Hallinan

The developed world has a message for Africa: ‘Sorry, but we are reneging on our aid pledges made at the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland back in 2005, but we do have something for you—lots and lots of expensive things that go ‘bang’ and kill people.’

And that was indeed the message that came out of the G8-G20 meetings in Canada last month. The promise to add an extra $25 billion to a $50 billion aid package for the continent went a glimmering. Instead, the G8 will cut the $25 billion to $11 billion and the $50 billion to $38 billion. And don’t hold your breath that Africa will get even that much.

The G8 consists of Britain, the U.S., Germany, France, Italy, Japan, France, and Russia, although Moscow is not part of the aid pledge.

Canada’s Muskoka summit hailed ‘significant progress toward the millennium development goals’—the United Nations’ target of reducing poverty by 2015—but when it came time to ante up, everyone but the United Kingdom bailed. The Gleneagles pledge was to direct 0.51 percent of the G8’s gross national income to aid programs by 2010. The UK came up to 0.56 percent, but the U.S. is at 0.2, Italy at 0.16, Canada at 0.3, Germany at 0.35, and France at 0.47. Rumor has it that France and Italy led the charge to water down the 2005 goals.

The shortfall, says Oxfam spokesman Mark Fried, is not just a matter of ‘numbers.’ The aid figures ‘represent vital medicines, kids in school, help for women living in poverty and food for the hungry.’

AIDS activists are particularly incensed. ‘I see no point in beating around the bush,’ said AIDS-Free World spokesman Stephen Lewis at a Toronto press conference. He charged that Obama Administration’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief ‘is being flat-lined for at least the next two years.’ Lewis said AIDS groups were treating five million patients, but that another nine million needed to be in programs. ‘There are AIDS projects, run by other NGOs [non-governmental organizations], where new patients cannot be enrolled unless someone dies.’ 

But if the  poor, sick, and hungry are going begging, not so Africa’s militaries.

According to Daniel Volman, director of the African Security Research Project, the White House is following the same policies as the Bush Administration vis-à-vis Africa. ‘Indeed, the Obama Administration is seeking to expand U.S. military activities on the continent even further,’ says Volman.

In its 2011 budget, the White House asked for over $80 million in military programs for Africa, while freezing or reducing aid packages aimed at civilians.

The major vehicle for this is the U.S.’s African Command (AFRICOM) founded in 2008. Through the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative, AFRICOM is training troops from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Chad. The supposed target of all this is the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Meghreb (AQIM), but while AQIM is certainly troublesome—it sets off bombs and kidnaps people— it is small, scattered, and doesn’t pose a serious threat to any of the countries involved.

The worry is that the various militaries being trained by AFRICOM could end up being used against internal dissidents. Tuaregs, for instance, are engaged in a long-running, low-level insurgency against the Mali government, which is backing a French plan to mine uranium in the Sahara. Might Morocco use the training to attack the Polisario Front in the disputed Western Sahara? Mauritanians complain that the ‘terrorist’ label has been used to jail political opponents of the government.

In testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said the U.S. was seeking to bolster Nigeria’s ‘ability to combat violent extremism within its borders.’ That might put AFRICOM in the middle of a civil war between ruling elites in Lagos and their transnational oil company allies, and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Delta, which is demanding an end to massive pollution and a fair cut of oil revenues. 

The National Energy Policy Development Groups estimates that by 2015 as much as 25 percent of U.S. oil imports will come from Africa.

So far, AFRICOM’s track record has been one disaster after another. It supported Ethiopia’s intervention in the Somalia civil war, and helped to overthrow the moderate Islamic Courts Union. It is now fighting a desperate rear-guard action against a far more extremist grouping, the al-Shabaab. AFRICOM also helped coordinate a Ugandan Army attack on the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—Operation Lightning Thunder— that ended up killing thousands of civilians. 

The U.S. has been careful to keep a low profile in all this. ‘We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked,’ Volman quotes one U.S. AFRICOM officer. ‘We want Africans to go in.’

And presumably get ‘whacked.’

AFRICOM’s Operation Flintlock 2010, which ran from May 3-22, was based in Burkina Faso. Besides the militaries of 10 African nations, it included 600 U.S. Special Forces and elite units from France, the Netherlands, and Spain. Yes, there are other arms pushers out there, and the list reads like an economic who’s who: France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, Sweden, and Israel. Some 70 percent of the world’s arms trade is aimed at developing countries.

So, is AFRICOM about fighting terrorism, or oil, gas and uranium? Nicole Lee, the executive director of Trans Africa, the leading African American organization focusing on Africa has no doubts: ‘This [AFRICOM] is nothing short of a sovereignty and resource grab.’

And who actually benefits from this militarization of the continent? As Nigerian journalist Dulue Mbachu warns, ‘Increased U.S. military presence in Africa may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to its interests, as was the case during the Cold War, while Africa slips further into poverty.’”


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Nigeria: Ölmultis fackeln Erdgas ab – Regierung schaut zu

Dienstag, Juni 22nd, 2010

“Nigeria: Gas Flaring, Another Threat

STATISTICS about gas flaring in Nigeria and its impact on the environment are staggering. Just like with oil spills, governments have set deadlines for oil companies to stop the damage to lives and the environment to no results.

In November 2005, a judgement by the Federal High Court of Nigeria ordered that gas flaring must stop in a Niger Delta community as it violates guaranteed constitutional rights to life and dignity. Justice C. V. Nwokorie ruled in Benin City that ‘the damaging and wasteful practice of flaring cannot lawfully continue.’ The illegality continues.

Nigeria, according to studies, is the world’s worst gas flarer. Estimates suggest that of the 3.5 billion cubic feet (100,000,000 m³) of associated gas produced annually, 2.5 billion cubic feet (70,000,000 m³), or about 70 per cent is wasted by flaring.

This equals about 25 per cent of the UK’s total natural gas consumption, and 40 per cent of Africa’s gas consumption in 2001. Gas flaring costs Nigeria about $2.5 billion a year, with the waste reportedly enough to meet the electricity needs of the entire African continent.

The reason for this economically and environmentally costly practice is that it is expensive to separate commercially viable associated gas from the oil. Companies operating in Nigeria prefer to extract natural gas from deposits where it is isolated.

Gas flaring contributes greatly to climate change.

The Niger Delta’s low-lying plains are also quite vulnerable. Along with gas re-injection, another alternative solution to burning the excess material is to use the gas as an energy source. It is much cheaper to burn the gas and pay the puny penalty government imposes.

Large amounts of methane accompanied by the other major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide are released from flaring. While flaring has been minimised globally, in Nigeria the volume of associated gas flared, is directly linked to the amount of oil produced.

It is established that poisonous chemicals from gas flares have harmful effects on health.

By-products of flaring include nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, like benzene, toluene, xylene and hydrogen sulphide, as well as carcinogens, like benzapyrene and dioxin.

They cause respiratory problems already reported in many children in the Niger Delta. These chemicals can aggravate asthma, cause breathing difficulties and pain, as well as chronic bronchitis. Benzene is well researched as being a causative agent for leukaemia and other blood-related diseases.

A study by Climate Justice estimates that exposure to benzene would result in eight new cases of cancer yearly in Bayelsa State alone.

Gas flares are often located close to local communities. Many of these communities claim that nearby flares cause acid rain which corrodes their corrugated iron roofs.

They resort to asbestos-based material, which is stronger in repelling acid rain deterioration, but this affects their health adversely as asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

Almost no vegetation can grow in the area directly surrounding the flare due to the tremendous heat it produces.

It is incredible that with these known damages from gas flaring, government pays only lip service to stopping it. Nigeria must see gas flaring as threatening as oil spills and deal with it expeditiously.”


China: Ein Blick auf das Verhältnis zu Lateinamerika

Dienstag, Juni 8th, 2010

What is China’s interest in Latin America?

By Virginia de la Siega

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been slowly but surely emerging as world power for the last 30 years. It has become the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and Japan and it’s leaving behind Germany as the world’s top exporter. Nor is China any longer a manufacturer of low value, low technology items: it has become the world’s largest producer both of wind turbines and solar panels, and last year its auto sales doubled to more than a million vehicles a month surpassing the United States.

If to that we add that it has the world’s third-largest defence budget, and the largest national population (1.3 billion people), it quickly becomes evident that China does not have sufficient oil, natural gas, aluminium, copper, or iron to satisfy its energy and manufacturing needs, and that it necessitates trade partners to sustain its growth.

China is also a key player on the world political scene. Besides the strategic role it plays in Asian geopolitics and its status as a nuclear nation, it is a member of the U.N. Security Council, the World Trade Organization, the Group of 77 Developing Nations, the Asia Pacific Economic Coopera¬tion Group and the Inter-American Development Bank. China has also observer status in the Organization of American States (OAS) and keeps a peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

Moreover, China has started to show the first elements of an imperialist state in the making. It has strengthened its diplomatic presence and economic influence, often referred to as “soft power,” in the developing world, specifically in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. It has tried to earn international goodwill through financing infrastructure and natural resource development projects, assisting in the execution of such projects, and backing PRC state enterprise ventures in many developing countries. If in terms of development grants China is a relatively small source of global aid, when its commercial and concessional loans, technical assistance, and state-sponsored or subsidized investments are included, the PRC becomes a major source of economic assistance. [1]

If the role that China has been playing in Africa has attracted much attention, the one played in Latin America has not nearly as much. And yet, bilateral trade between China and Latin America has been expanding significantly since November 2004, when China’s president Hu Jintao promised to invest $100bn in the region.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Chinese investments have mounted from $200 million per year in 1975 to $70.2 billion per year in 2006 and are predicted to reach $100 billion per year in 2010. [2] Even though China’s trade figures in the region amount to much less than those of the United States US ($560bn) or the EU ($250bn), the trend is significant. A sign of the importance the PRC gives to the region is the publication of its first ever policy paper on Latin America on 5th November 2008. The trade and investment relationships have been complemented by other contacts, including high-level delegations of political, cultural, trade and military officials, and China’s participation in the Latin American institutions above mentioned.

China’s twofold strategy in Latin America

The PRC has defined two strategies for Latin America. The first is economic: to secure China’s access to the primary materials that it needs for its economic growth and to find a market for its manufactured goods. The second strategy is mainly political: to obtain diplomatic recognition from those countries still recognizing Taiwan as the government of China.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Venezuela and Cuba play a major role in the first strategy.

Brazil, the first economy of the region, is clearly China’s most important partner, both as a market for Chinese goods and as a source of raw materials. Brazil supplies some 45 % of all PRC soybean imports and is also the source for other agricultural products, as well as iron and petroleum. The PRC has launched several major collaborative projects with Brazil in these sectors. Brazil’s status as a large middle-income country also makes it important as a market for Chinese goods, including electronics, machinery and labour intensive manufactured goods, such as footwear and toys. Brazil possesses a nuclear industry and uranium resources — important to China as it expands its own nuclear industry to meet its energy needs. The Brazilian aerospace industry has created multiple opportunities for collaboration with China, including technology.

The global recession emphasized and magnified the importance of China to Brazil. While Brazilian exports to the United States fell 37.8 % in the first quarter of 2009, exports to the PRC increased by 62.7 %. Consequently, in the first half of 2009, China became Brazil’s number one export destination. China has also emerged as a key financier for Brazil’s projects to develop the newly discovered deepwater oil reserves in the Campos and Santos basins. When in May 2009, China and Brazil signed an agreement for a $10 billion loan from China Development Bank, the president of Petrobras, Sergio Gabrielli, noted, “There isn’t someone in the U.S. government that we can sit down with and have the kinds of discussions we’re having with the Chinese”. [3] According to this agreement, the loan was given in exchange for a guaranteed supply of oil over the next decade. The two nations are also pursuing a range of important joint ventures, including joint production of jets, the China-Brazil Earth Research Satellite (CBERS) program and other space cooperation programs.

As in the case of Brazil, China’s economic policy in relation to Argentina, the other large South American economy, is not restricted to buying natural resources. Argentina has collaborated with China in space projects, such as a satellite laser ranging project in Argentina’s San Juan University, and has discussed collaboration in designing a new-generation nuclear reactor.

However, China main interest is in Argentina’s mining and oil sectors. In 2003, the CNPC (China National Petroleum Company) acquired a stake in the Argentine oil and gas firm Pluspetrol, which operates fields in northern Argentina and Peru, and there has already been an investment from the Chinese-Angolan company Sonogol. In May 2010, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) purchased a 50 percent stake in Argentina’s Bridas Holdings for $3.1 billion. There have also been rumoured talks between the Spanish firm Repsol-YPF and CNOOC regarding Repsol-YPF’s Argentine holdings –although none of the possibilities raised has yet materialized.

The USA views with suspicion the PRC financial deals to facilitate commerce with Argentina. In March 2009, China signed a $10.2 billion debt swap with Argentina, [4] in what the American government considers an expanding challenge to the primacy of the dollar as an international reserve currency. [5] It is to be noted that Brazilian President Lula explicitly argued for working with China to move away from the dollar during his trip to China in May 2009. [6]

The PRC has also been courting Argentina as a purchaser of its own manufactured goods, but here, the relationship has been much more conflictive owing to Argentina’s plan to redevelop some industrial sectors.

For two of the three Latin American members of APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Co-operation), Peru and Chile, China has become a crucial trading partner. According to UN figures, in 2007 nearly 40% of Chile’s exports went to the Asia-Pacific region, mostly China. For Peru, the figure was 19%. This has moved countries such as Colombia and Costa Rica to want to join APEC.

The PRC has invested in Peru in the oil and gas sectors. It has purchased fishing fleets and fishmeal processing facilities, and has made investments in the mines in Toromocho, Rio Blanco and Maracona. This is not surprising if we consider that 85.2% of Peru’s exports to China are copper, fish flour and iron ore.

The PRC has an interest in Bolivia’s gas and iron resources. Bolivia has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America, behind only Venezuela. Bolivia’s lack of sea access poses a problem, but the introduction of new refining technologies, such as the liquefaction of gas or its use in producing other fuels, increase the feasibility of exporting Bolivian gas to China. And Evo Morales has opened up a number of possibilities for an expanded Chinese presence in that country: a concession has been signed to the Chinese conglomerate Shandong Llueng, granting them the right to develop all or part of the iron deposits at El Mutún—one of the largest in the world, if not the largest; and Chinese oil companies have signed agreements to help YPFB to overcome some of the problems with capital and experience which the nationalization of the country’s oil brought about.

The investments in Ecuador have also been huge and have had diplomatic effects. China has invested in oilfields, port operations and pipeline assets. In 2003, China bid on concessions to Ecuador’s major oil fields. The oil operations by CNPC have caused serious problems with the indigenous populations in Tarapoa and Succumbios particularly because of the lack of interest of Chinese investments in the preservation of the environment. The decision by the Ecuadorian regime of Rafael Correa not to renew the agreement giving the U.S. access to Manta was the necessary first step to invite the Chinese to develop the airport into a hub for trans-pacific flights, even though the PRC never made any explicit suggestions.

China has also set up investments and joint ventures with state-owned petroleum and mineral extractive companies such as PdVSA (Venezuela), YPFB (Bolivia), Petrobras (Brazil), and Cubaniquel (Cuba).

The case of Panama is slightly different due to its strategic position. Panama’s primary-product exports or its potential as an import market are minor. However, as owner of the Panama Canal, it has an enormous strategic value for China. The PRC firm Hutchison-Whampoa, with alleged connections to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), owns property on either end of the Panama Canal, giving it visibility over military and commercial traffic transiting the canal, and potentially serving as a staging area for future operations to control transit through this strategic checkpoint.

China’s political strategy affects mainly Central America and the Caribbean. Here, the PRC has mainly focused on using economic and diplomatic levers to secure diplomatic recognition from those countries still recognizing Taiwan as the government of China. Of the remaining 23 countries that still recognise Taiwan, 11 are found in this region. So far, Costa Rica is the only country that changed alliances in 2007, and has been consequently rewarded: Hu Jintao visited Costa Rica in 2008 to inaugurate a new football stadium donated by the PRC.

Who benefits?

The China-Latin America relationship is not win-win for all partners. As of 2005, the trade surpluses that Latin American countries had with China have been reversed. Nowadays, 93% of China’s exports to Central and South America consist in manufactured goods (25% of textiles and garments, and 44% machinery and equipment).This is negatively affecting the efforts of the most advanced Latin American economies to develop their own local industry and is beginning to create problems.

Mexico, Latin America’s third APEC member has been particularly affected for two main reasons: its close ties with the US economy and the overlap between Chinese and Mexican exports. Of Mexico’s 20 main exporting sectors, 12 are in open competition with China. This not only reduces Mexico’s possibility to export to China to only about 3% of its total exports, but it also affects its trade relations with the USA. In 2003, China ousted Mexico from its position as the second largest exporter to the USA. With a $28bn trade deficit with China, it is no wonder that the Mexican government wants to review the trade agreements. An official of the Mexican government complained that “for every $30 of Chinese goods that Mexico imports, Mexico only exports $1 of Mexican goods to China.”

Something similar is happening with the textile industry from Central America, which is being smothered by Chinese textile exports.

Another example of tension in the relations with the largest Latin American economies is the case of Argentina. Argentina supplies 23 % of all soy product imports of the PRC. China has suspended an order for more than 2 million tons of soya oil, part of which is in transit, because Argentina decided to tax shoes imported from China as a measure to protect its local producers. Argentina’s commercial deficit with China in 2009 reached $1200 million and for the first two months of 2010 it is already $600 billion. The Argentinean government is not willing to let it increase. China’s response has nothing to envy to those of other imperialist powers when their “commercial rights” are affected by uppity emerging countries.

Basically, Latin American governments find two problems with Chinese investments: 1) their main purpose is to serve China’s development needs by facilitating the export of the raw materials, often imposing the demand that a significant portion of project to obtain and process those materials and services be sourced in China; 2) they have found that the level of Chinese direct foreign investment in the region is not as high as it seems, and that much of the official figures go into offshore tax havens.

What is clear is that Chinese trade with Latin America has fuelled a boom in the region’s commodity-export sectors in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, at the same time that Latin American manufacturing sectors have been badly damaged by expanded competition from Chinese goods. The situation is even worse for countries and regions with large manufacturing sectors and limited primary-product export sectors such as Mexico and Central America.

China: The new kid in the American’s backyard

Does China want to replace the USA as the ruling power in the region? Nothing’s farther from the truth. So far, the PRC has clearly shown that its main concern is not to undermine the Chinese-US relation, which it considers of the outmost importance from the strategic and economic point of view. At most, the PRC would be willing to occupy the empty spaces that the USA may leave. The strongest Latin American economies have been trying to profit from the power triangle that China’s policy is bringing about with diverse luck.

China’s concern not to cross the USA also affects its relations with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and above all Cuba. China has signed military agreements with Venezuela, but this should not be seen as an outright backing of the Bolivarian regime. Even if China has signed an extensive military cooperation with Venezuela, it is doing so reluctantly, forced by its need for oil. To some extent, China is unwillingly filling a gap created by the deterioration of Venezuela’s political and military relationship with the United States. The fact that the Venezuelan government has frustrated the operations of some Chinese corporations such as CNPC shows that the relations between the two countries are not free of contradictions.

The relation with Cuba is slightly different from that with Venezuela. In spite of China’s pragmatic approach to foreign policy, there is still a slight ideological element at play. The economic relations are closer, and the PRC ranks ahead of Spain and second to Venezuela among Cuba’s trade partners. China also played a key role in upgrading the Cuban Air Defence System, and has frequently exchanged high-ranking Chinese military delegations. Cuba also supplies the PRC with strategic materials and agricultural products. In addition to sugar, Cuba also has both offshore petroleum and the world’s largest proven nickel reserves. In January 2005, China’s oil and gas giant Sinopec Corp. signed an agreement with Cuba’s state-run Cubapetroleo (Cupet) to jointly produce oil on the island. However, the relationship is not without problems. A $500 million joint venture to produce 68,000 tonnes a year of ferro-nickel in eastern Cuba signed between Cubaniquel and the Chinese firm MinMetals was abruptly cancelled, and the concession was given, instead, to Venezuela.


How the relationship between China and Latin America will develop in the future is a matter of speculation, although certain tendencies are already clear.

‣ The PRC has no interest in damaging his strategic economic and political relation with the USA. The relation with the governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba has been restricted mostly to commercial agreements in which it has proved to be practically the sole beneficiary.

‣ The relation between the PRC and Latin America is one of unequal partners owing to the potential of the former’s economy and the limits of latter’s. This is a source of constant conflict with those emerging economies —like Mexico and Argentina— that have plans to develop an independent industry and set up barriers to defend their national manufacturers from Chinese exports.

‣ Another source of conflict with Chinese investments is the fact that Chinese direct investments seek high levels of return regardless of social, labour or environmental conditions. This has already created conflicts with native populations in Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina.

Timeline on Chinese investments in Latin America’s energy and commodities sector since 2005

Jan. 2005

– Cuba:

China’s oil and gas giant Sinopec Corp. signs an agreement with Cuba’s state-run Cubapetroleo (Cupet) to jointly produce oil on the Caribbean island.

China’s state-owned Minmetals is investing $500 million in a joint venture to produce 68,000 tonnes a year of ferro-nickel in eastern Cuba.

Feb. 2005

– Chile:

China’s Minmetals Corporation signs an agreement to invest an initial $550 million, which could eventually rise to $2 billion, to set up a joint venture with Chilean state copper company Codelco.

Sept. 2005

– Bolivia:

China’s Shengli International Petroleum Development Co. Ltd. signs a framework pact with state-run Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolovianos to invest $1.5 billion over 40 years in Bolivia’s onshore oil and gas sector.


Chinese-led consortium Andes Petroleum, which includes China National Petroleum Corp. and Sinopec group, buys Canada-based Encana’s oil and pipeline assets in Ecuador for $1.42 billion.

June 2007

– Peru:

Peru Copper Inc. agrees to be bought by state-owned Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. in a friendly deal worth C$840 million ($792 million) in cash, the Canada-headquartered company says.

May 2009

– Brazil:

China Development Bank announces that it will lend $10 billion to Petrobras, the state-owned Brazilian oil company, in exchange for a guaranteed supply of oil over the next decade.

July 2009

– Ecuador:

China forges a $1 billion loan-for-oil deal with South American OPEC member Ecuador.

Sept. 2009

– Venezuela:

Venezuela signs a $16 billion investment deal with China over three years to raise oil output by several hundred thousand barrels per day in the OPEC member’s Orinoco belt.

Oct. 2009

– Brazil:

Chinese steel and iron ore group Baosteel proposes to pay 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) for a 30 percent stake in Anglo American’s huge Minas Rio iron ore mine in Brazil.

March 2010

– Argentina:

CNOOC purchases a 50 percent stake in Argentina’s Bridas Holdings for $3.1 billion.

Virginia de la Siega is a member of the national leadership (CPN) and the International Commission of the NPA in France.


[1] China’s Assistance and Government-Sponsored Investment Activities in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, Report for (US) Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress, Thomas Lum, November 25, 2009.

[2] Latin Business Chronicle, China Undermines U.S. in Latin America, Monday, June 04, 2007, see

[3] The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2009.

[4] La Nacion [Argentina], March 31, 2009.

[5] Nacion [Costa Rica], March 31, 2009

[6] Xinhua News Agency, May 22, 2009.

(Quelle: International Viewpoint.)

USA: Sechs Monate keine Ölbohrungen in der Arktis

Donnerstag, Mai 27th, 2010

“New Arctic Drilling Suspended: No New Permits Until 2011


WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is suspending proposed exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says in a report to be delivered to the White House on Thursday that he will not consider applications for permits to drill in the Arctic until 2011. Shell Oil is poised to begin exploratory drilling this summer on leases as far as 140 miles offshore.

An administration official familiar with the plan said Salazar wants to allow further study of proposed drilling technology and oil spill response capabilities in Arctic waters. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet public.

Salazar has said he wants to take a cautious approach in the Arctic.

President Barack Obama ordered Salazar to conduct a review of the nation’s offshore oil drilling safety after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last month.

In March, Obama and Salazar canceled a planned 2011 lease sale in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, where oil development was proposed by the Bush administration. They canceled four scheduled lease sales in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas and said no additional leases would be offered there until more scientific data are collected.

An administration official said Salazar believes that fisheries, tourism and environmental values in Bristol Bay make the area inappropriate for oil and gas drilling.

Shell, which has leases in both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, had sought to begin drilling five exploratory wells in those areas this summer. Salazar’s announcement means those wells will not be considered until 2011.

Salazar also is directing the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct an independent evaluation of oil spill risks and spill response capabilities in the state.

Shell Oil, the U.S. arm of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has the backing of Alaska’s political leaders. With few exceptions, they support offshore drilling, a stance articulated by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP nominee for vice president.

About 90 percent of Alaska’s general fund revenue comes from the petroleum industry. State leaders look to offshore oil to provide jobs and keep the trans-Alaska pipeline from running dry.”

(Quelle: Huffington Post.)

Bolivien: Morales zwischen den Stühlen

Dienstag, Mai 25th, 2010

“Morales Caught Between Gas Revenues and Indigenous Demands

By Franz Chávez

LA PAZ, May 24, 2010 (IPS) – The Bolivian government negotiated with native groups to head off major marches and roadblocks aimed at demanding protection of indigenous land rights and conservation of the environment in their territories.

Thanks to a last-minute agreement with the Evo Morales administration, a 1,000-km march from the city of Riberalta in the extreme north to La Paz in the western highlands by indigenous groups from the Amazon jungle region was called off.

And negotiations with government officials put an end to a four-day roadblock by Guaraní Indians on a key highway that connects Bolivia with Argentina to the south.

On Sunday, an agreement was signed after two days of talks between representatives of the Guaraní community and the ministers of hydrocarbons, autonomy and rural development and land.

Native groups who live in areas rich in timber, water, minerals and oil are demanding government protection of their ancestral lands, in line with the defence of Pachamama or Mother Earth voiced by Morales at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change held a month ago in the central city of Cochabamba.

Morales, the first-ever indigenous president in this country where native people comprise a majority of the population, is caught between demands for the conservation of forests, water sources, and traditional lands, and the government’s heavy dependency on natural gas, its main source of revenue, which brought in 1.46 billion dollars in 2008.

Bolivia has South America’s second largest natural gas reserves, after Venezuela’, with an estimated volume of 49 trillion cubic feet.

‘It is hard to exploit natural resources without hurting the environment,’ Armengol Caballero, the head of the Centre for Research and Advancement of Small Farmers (CIPCA), told IPS. ‘The exploitation of oil and gas implies deforestation as roads and pipelines are put in to bring out the fuel.’

Caballero accuses Morales of a ‘double discourse’.

But he also argued the need to exploit the country’s natural resources, in order to generate revenues for the benefit of indigenous peoples themselves, instead of leaving the oil, gas and minerals underground.

‘The government is promoting economic policies based on extractive industries with high costs to the environment and to its own image, which is based on promises of change,’ Edwin Alvarado, national communications secretary of the Environmental Defence League (LIDEMA), Bolivia’s leading environmental coalition, commented to IPS.

A ministerial commission and leaders of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia (CIDOB), which represents one million members, held talks last week, in which the government promised to speed up the process of demarcating the lands of native communities in the Amazon jungle region and granting them collective land titles.

In response, CIDOB called off its plans for a 1,000-km march to La Paz.

The government also announced that it will push for a new forestry law, and that the concessions of mining and lumber companies that do not respect Bolivia’s regulations and standards will be cancelled.

The Morales administration’s commitment includes the drafting of specific regulations for carrying out prior consultations among indigenous communities before authorising the construction of roads, hydroelectric dams, and the exploration and production of minerals, oil and natural gas.

The government also reiterated that it would fully comply with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

But the government’s commitment to ‘free, prior and informed consent’ from native communities, as established by Convention 169, would seem to run counter to its authorisation of projects like a stretch of the Trans-Oceanic Highway — an infrastructure megaproject jointly undertaken by Bolivia, Brazil and Peru — between the towns of Villa Tunari in the central province of Cochabamba and San Ignacio de Moxos in the northern province of Beni, Alvarado said.

More than 60 native communities in the Isiboro Sécure National Park will be affected by the project, because they depend on sustainable hunting, food gathering, and the use of natural sources of water, he said.

The LIDEMA spokesman said the park was one of the few areas in the Andean foothills of South America where the local indigenous inhabitants live according to their traditional way of life in an area that they consider sacred.

‘The environmental policies of the current government are supposedly based on respect for Mother Earth,’ the head of the environmental group Kandire, Daniela Leytón, told IPS.

‘However, there is a counter-discourse in favour of the accelerated incursion of megaprojects in the name of development that undermine indigenous rights, under policies that are unethical in terms of the application of consultation methods and justifications,’ she maintained.

Leytón noted that Bolivia is a country with a low industrial capacity and high dependence on natural resources, ‘which fuels major extractive industry activity and exports concentrated in natural gas and minerals.’

The activist said that while GDP has increased 20 percent thanks to a rise in natural gas revenues since Morales first took office in 2006, the poverty rate has not dropped below 60 percent.

She also pointed to the government’s difficulties in meeting the payments to pregnant and nursing mothers, which forced it to obtain a 20 million dollar 40-year loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).”

(Quelle: IPS News.)