At the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo revealed his hope that 2019 will deliver a more balanced oil market. However, he also voiced his concern that the lingering trade dispute between the U.S and China -- two of the largest sources of energy demand -- may significantly affect international trade by disrupting growth prospects in major Asian markets.
Outside of the U.S, India and China are the brightest spots in terms of demand for energy. Any measures that may impact or constrain trade will likely have an impact on growth, and by extension, the demand for energy. As such, the persistent trade dispute between U.S and China is concerning.
China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil today. In 2017, its purchases reached 18.6% of the total crude imports. But if a trade war severely hit China's growth, it could send shock waves through the rest of Asia and threaten crucial sources of income for OPEC's producers. Furthermore, the impact could spread to India, which could ultimately become the world's largest importer by 2024, according to some estimates.