Absurd bill to ban oil exports to China exposes lack of common sense among US lawmakers
Published: Jun 16, 2022 02:51 PM
File Photo: CFP

File Photo: CFP

In face of record-high gas prices in the US and skyrocketing inflation, radical anti-China politicians in Washington have come up with another "brilliant" idea: ban US' oil exports to China.

Notorious Republican Senator Marco Rubio and lesser-known Senator Rick Scott on Wednesday introduced a so-called China Oil Export Prohibition Act to ban the exportation of oil and petroleum products from the US to China. The bill would ensure the US does not unwittingly aid and support its primary adversary, the US legislators said in a statement.

The two US politicians said their "good bill" should be supported in the Congress because it's "unacceptable" and "absurd" for Biden administration to allow oil exports to China while Americans pay more than $5 per gallon of gas.

Evidently, with the US midterm elections approaching, a frantic race in Washington over who is tougher on China has begun again. What this ridiculous bill lays bare, however, is how little common sense American anti-China lawmakers have when it comes to trade with China and basic economics. Here is the simple fact that Rubio has missed: Expanding energy exports to China is in America's own economic interest. 

The importance of the Chinese market to the US oil industry is plain for all to see. In 2021, China is the fourth largest export destination for US oil, with a 7-percent share, according to data from the Energy Information Administration of the US. The US exported nearly 819 million barrels of oil and petroleum products in the first quarter of 2022, with exports to China accounting for about 6.3 percent of total exports, according to Voice of America. 

After the US became a total petroleum net exporter, it has been seeking to expand oil exports to the Chinese market, intending to narrow the US trade deficit with China. However, the US oil is less competitive than other major oil exporting countries. Now US lawmakers' call to ban oil exports to China will inevitably weaken US oil's competitiveness.

Moreover, the absurd proposal would further widen the US' trade deficit, which reflects the dilemma faced by US economic policy when it comes to China. The US trade deficit for goods widened to a record high in March with the goods trade deficit increasing 17.8 percent to $125.3 billion, according to Reuters. The widening of the trade deficit largely explains the US economy's worst performance since the pandemic recovery began, with gross domestic product shrinking at an annualized rate of 1.5 percent  in the first quarter, according to Bloomberg.

Or perhaps people like Rubio in Washington are not as naive as they appear. The real reason why they constantly concoct ridiculous anti-China bills is that they know well manipulating anti-China issues will help them score political points in a Washington that prioritizes ideology-driven zero-sum games over mutually beneficial economic outcomes.

In such a bizarre vibe of demonstrating who is tougher against China, US politicians are concocting a growing list of legislation that severely undermines the bilateral economic relationship with China. While this absurd proposal to ban oil exports to China is highly unlikely to pass like previous similar proposals, if the US allows this kind of anti-China race keep intensifying, what does it mean for US business and the broader US economy. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.