China Restarts Purchases of Iranian Oil, Bucking Trump’s Sanctions — Bourse & Bazaar
PACIFIC BRAVO is currently reporting its destination as Indonesia, but the tanker was recently acquired by Bank of Kunlun, a financial institution that is owned by the Chinese state oil company CNPC. TankerTrackers.com believes China is the ultimate destination for the oil on board.
PACIFIC BRAVO is the first major tanker to load Iranian crude after the Trump administration revoked waivers permitting the purchases by eight of Iran’s oil customers. The revocation of the waivers, which sent shockwaves through the global oil market, was a major escalation of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
The purchase of Iranian oil in the absence of a waiver exposes the companies involved in the transaction—including the tanker operator, refinery customer, and bank—to possible designation by the U.S. Treasury Department, threatening the links these companies may maintain with the U.S. financial system.
Bank of Kunlun has long been the financial institution at heart of China-Iran bilateral trade—a role for which the company was sanctioned during the Obama administration. Despite already being designated, Bank of Kunlun ceased its Iran-related activities in early May when the oil waivers were revoked. PACIFIC BRAVO’s moves point to a change in policy.
China-Iran trade slowed dramatically after the reimposition of U.S. secondary sanctions in November, suggesting the Chinese government had chosen to subordinate its economic relations with Iran to the much more important issue of its ongoing trade negotiations with the United States. But these negotiations have since broken down. This week, President Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on a further $300 billion in Chinese imports in addition to punitive measures against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which has been targeted in part for its alleged violations of Iran sanctions.