Mr. Geithner goes to Asia as tension with Iran grows

Scott Tong Jan 9, 2012

Mr. Geithner goes to Asia as tension with Iran grows

Scott Tong Jan 9, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is on his way to Asia today with a goal of getting Japan and China on board with new economic sanctions against Iran. And the tensions between the U.S. and Iran continue to rise. An Iranian News Agency is reporting this morning that the country has just convicted an American man of working for the CIA, and sentenced him to death. But even so, convincing Asian nations to tighten the screws on Iran’s oil revenue is no easy feat.

Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.

Scott Tong: Geithner’s trip is part of an effort to cut Iran off from as customers as possible. Already, the U.S. punishes banks that do oil deals with Tehran. And the Europeans talk of a joint embargo by month’s end. But China is Iran’s biggest buyer — it takes about 22 percent of exported crude, and it opposes sanctions.

Still, not a deal breaker, says energy analyst Trevor Houser at the Rhodium Group. Say you’re Iran’s state oil company.

Trevor Houser: Now let’s say some of those buyers leave the table. Europeans are no longer willing to buy. Japanese are no longer willing to buy. And the Koreans are no longer willing to buy. Now I’m only dealing with the Indians and the Chinese, which puts refiners in those countries in a better position in terms of price negotiation.

China bargains a lower price, and Iran gets less money. That’s the idea. But even so, will it hurt Tehran enough to deter its nuclear ambitions? Not everyone is convinced.

In Washington, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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