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Daily Brief: Oil Prices Rise Ahead of OPEC Meeting

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June 2, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Oil Prices Rise Ahead of OPEC Meeting

Crude prices rose slightly Thursday ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna on the expectation that the bloc may discuss a production ceiling (WSJ). The bloc's members are also expected to discuss long-term industry investments, the election of a new secretary-general, climate policy, and Gabon's application to be readmitted to the bloc (Forbes). Saudi Arabia is expected to support a production ceiling while Iran has said that such a limit must be based on individual country quotas (FT). Prices have rallied more than 80 percent since reaching a January low of $30 a barrel.


"Initially, the meeting was expected to produce no major changes from the current free-for-all production policy, but hints of change have emerged. Khalid al-Falih, the newly appointed Saudi Arabian oil minister, indicated in advance of the meeting that Saudi Arabia would be open to an oil production compromise. This immediately caused a small jump in oil prices even though it is likely that this statement was intended as a sign of openness and goodwill towards his fellow OPEC oil ministers rather than a serious policy change," Ellen R. Wald writes for Forbes.

"Oil has rallied more than 80 per cent since it slumped to about $30 a barrel in January, in what some see as validation of Saudi Arabia’s refusal to address a supply glut by unilaterally cutting output. While the two-year-old policy is starting to have an effect, with production from outside Opec headed for its biggest annual drop in more than a decade, the industry wants to know how the newly appointed Mr Falih plans to harness the kingdom’s oil might as Saudi embarks on a radical reform programme," Anjli Raval, David Sheppard, and Neil Hume write for the Financial Times.

"Mohammed Barkindo, a former boss of Nigeria’s national oil company, is in pole position to be installed as front man for the oil cartel, whose lack of internal unity leaves it unable to take decisive action. Among those eligible to vote for him will be another new face at Opec top table, the newly appointed Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih, who showed his intent to take the summit seriously by arriving at the start of the week. But determination to break the sense of drift inside Opec is being undermined by the fact that market forces have driven up the value of benchmark Brent blend to about $50 per barrel," Terry Macalister writes for the Guardian.


Mitsubishi Offers Apology, $56 million to Chinese Victims of Forced Wartime Labor

The Japanese company apologized for the use of forced labor in coal mines during World War II and said it would compensate survivors and victims' families with $15,000 each (Guardian). Some forty-thousand Chinese were brought to Japan as forced laborers during the war (Japan Times).  

CHINA: China's Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, published an op-ed (Bloomberg) arguing that U.S.-China relations were "too important" to be "hijacked" by the South China Sea disputes (SCMP) and calling for dialogue and cooperation. Chinese and U.S. officials will meet in Beijing for the eighth U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue next week.

This CFR InfoGuide discusses China's maritime disputes.


Indian Court Convicts Twenty-Four for 2002 Anti-Muslim Gujarat Riots

A special court convicted twenty-four people for involvement in riots in the western Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 (The Hindu). The trial focused on the deaths of sixty-nine Muslims in a riot at a housing complex (Reuters); more than a thousand people were killed in an outbreak violence in the state that year.  

TAJIKISTAN: Two leaders of Tajikistan's most viable opposition party, the banned Islamic Renaissance Party, were sentenced to life in prison over an alleged coup plot involving a disaffected government minister (Eurasia Net). Another twelve party members were given shorter sentences.


Foreign Investments in Israeli Assets Reach Record High

Foreign investments in Israeli assets reached a record high in 2015, at more than $285 billion, even as Israeli government officials increasingly express concern over the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Foreign investments (Bloomberg) in Israeli assets have reportedly tripled since the protest movement began in 2005.

SAUDI ARABIA: The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia invested $3.5 billion into the ride-sharing app Uber, in line with the government's goal to diversify its economy away from reliance on oil exports and to support entrepreneurship (Middle East Eye). Women make up 80 percent of Uber's riders (Reuters) in the country.


Gunfight in Mogadishu Hotel Between Militants and Security Forces

The Islamist group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on a Mogadishu hotel that killed sixteen people, including two lawmakers, and wounded fifty-five (Reuters). Separately, Somali security officials announced they had killed sixteen people, including the alleged planner of a 2015 attack on Kenya's Garissa University, in a raid on the town of Kismayo (Al Jazeera).  

This CFR interactive discusses the evolution of Al-Shabab.

CAR: A UN report documented 269 incidents (Al Jazeera) of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, including arbitrary murders, sexual violence, and allegations of witchcraft, since November of 2015. The report said those responsible included "elements from the anti-Balaka, ex-Seleka, LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) and state authorities."


Deadly Floods in France, Germany, and Austria

At least nine people were killed in northern Europe after a week of heavy storms (Guardian) that led to school closures, inundated streets, and the evacuation of at least five thousand people. Parts of France have seen record-breaking levels of rainfall in the last month (EuroNews).

TURKEY: Turkey recalled its ambassador to Germany after lawmakers there voted in favor of calling the 1915 killings of Armenians in Turkey a genocide (Politico), a resolution supported by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. The move comes months after the EU and Turkey signed an agreement to stem the flux of refugees arriving on European shores (NYT).


Former Latin American Presidents Back OAS Rebuke of Venezuela

A group of former Latin American leaders, known as the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas, called on Venezuelan authorities to allow a presidential recall referendum vote to go forward this year (El Universal). Venezuela's foreign minister criticized a similar announcement by the Organization of American States and warned of imminent "armed intervention."

 ECUADOR: Ecuador's government estimated that the reconstruction costs following an April earthquake that killed 664 people could reach $3.3 billion (LAHT).


Survey: Americans Confident in U.S. Global Standing

A recent Pew Research Center survey found 72 percent of Americans agree the United States is the world’s leading military power, and 54 percent agree it is the top economic power.

Track and compare the candidates’ positions on foreign policy and national security issues with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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