Maybe it’s time to try something new. And maybe it’s already starting.
Last week the New York Times reported:
In the first major oil deal Iraq has made with a foreign country since 2003, the Iraqi government and the China National Petroleum Corporation have signed a contract in Beijing that could be worth up to $3 billion, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
Under the new contract, which must still be approved by Iraq’s cabinet, the Chinese company will provide technical advisers, oil workers and equipment to help develop the Ahdab oil field southeast of Baghdad, according to Assim Jihad, a spokesman for Iraq’s Oil Ministry. If the deal is approved, work could begin on the oil field within a few months, Mr. Jihad said.
And today the Guardian confirms that the deal was approved by Iraq’s cabinet.
There are some Americans who regard expanding Chinese global influence with fear and suspicion. But I maintain that stability and prosperity for Iraq and the broader Middle East should be the primary U.S. objective at the moment. Although China of course has its own reasons to be interested in the region, those interests are undermined by terrorism and regional instability just as much as ours. And precisely because China is a distinct power with separate interests from the U.S., its status as a more neutral third party leaves it in a position to assist in restoring stability to Iraq and the region in ways that the U.S. cannot. The perception that the purpose of toppling Saddam Hussein was to benefit U.S. oil companies greatly undermines our capacity to bring peace to the region. One way the U.S. can signal that our goal is instead regional stability is by embracing a larger role for China in Iraq and the Middle East.
Some may ask, What good does it do Americans if Iraqi oil gets shipped to China? The answer is, it is a global market for oil, and apart from quality differences you would pay pretty much the same price whether you buy the product in New York, Rotterdam or Singapore. That price depends on the total quantity produced globally and the total quantity consumed globally. More global production means a lower price, and which country consumes which oil is of little practical significance. It matters very little for the price that U.S. consumers pay whether the assistance for Iraqi oil production comes from CNPC or ExxonMobil or whether the oil is sold to the U.S. or to the Chinese. But it matters a great deal for the price that American consumers pay for oil whether the Iraqi oil is produced or is not produced.
Others may worry that higher oil production today just leaves the world with less of this depletable resource for the future. But to this I would counter that the transition to a world when global oil production no longer increases each year will raise some tremendous geopolitical stresses. The more stability and cooperation we can have as we enter that phase, the better off we will be.
You’ve heard it said, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the U.S.” But I say, “what’s good for Iraq and China is good for the U.S.”