War fears disrupting trade with Syria

Updated: 2013-08-30 07:16

By Yao Jing (China Daily)

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Concern about the possibility of United States military action against Syria is causing difficulties in trade between China and Syria, an official with the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday.

"Economic and trade cooperation between China and Syria has been affected to a large extent, and we are not encouraging Chinese companies to enter Syria at the moment," said Zhong Man-ying, director-general of the department of western Asian and African affairs, at a news conference in Beijing.

Zhong said that few Chinese workers have remained in the country. There are just a few employees of Chinese telecoms companies still in Syria.

Concerns over possible military intervention in Syria have pushed up oil prices. Front-month US crude oil futures ended up 1 percent at $110.10 a barrel on Wednesday after touching $112.24, the highest since May 2011, according to Reuters.

Syria pumps one-third of the world's oil. However, the turmoil won't have much impact on China's oil supplies, as China has only been importing small amounts of oil from the country, and conditions in Syria have been unstable for some time.

"But as the Middle East accounts for about 42 percent of China's oil imports, the turbulence in Syria, which is probably affecting other major producers in the area, will help raise oil prices," said Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economic Research at Xiamen University.

In 2012, China's dependence on imports for its oil supply stood at 58 percent of total use. China produced 204 million metric tons of crude oil last year, and the import volume reached 280 million tons, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Although China has the ability to pay for oil imports, it must also pursue other options, especially in the long term, experts said.