Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No Russian Gas for China Yet

In March 2013, Gazprom CEOAlexei Miller stated that an agreement with China on the pipeline gas deal that they have been negotiating since 2004 would be signed by June 2013.  "The parties plan to sign legally binding principal terms and conditions of the contract in June this year and sign the long-term contract by the end of the year," he said.  With that deadline now on the ash heap of history, Miller is now hopeful for a September contract.  "I think it can be said in September we could achieve the signing of the basic terms of the contract."

Gazprom's Export CEO Alexander Medvedev was not as optimistic.  He said Miller's statement was a hope, not a reality.  He said that Miller was engaged in wishful thinking, and that thinking made it so.  The issue has not changed over the decade:  Gazprom wants to charge China using a price linked to the European market; China has never accepted this, arguing they are a developing country that cannot afford such prices. China has also claimed that the transit distance between Russian fields and China is less than between the wells and Europe; accordingly, prices should be less.

Despite these issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin remains optimistic about the Asian market.  "We  are thinking about entering the promising market in the Asia-Pacific region.  We should find our niche here; we have every chance of doing that," he said.  "The Asia-Pacific region is developing rapidly.  Its consumption is growing rapidly, and Russia can play a prominent role."  Putin's remarks may be fulfilled with the newly signed Rosneft contract to deliver petroleum to China, but Gazprom's $68 billion pipeline project remains mired in the inability of the negotiators to move toward an accommodation.