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China unlikely to cut Venezuela's US oil supplies
Updated: 2005-09-21 07:27

China's increased interest in the Venezuelan oil industry is unlikely to have any effect on U.S. supplies, a top State Department official said Tuesday.

China, the world's second largest petroleum consumer, has stepped up investment throughout Latin America, including increased buying of Venezuela's oil.

Charles Shapiro, a senior Western Hemisphere specialist at the State Department, told a Senate panel looking at China's role in Latin America that it would be economically painful for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to make good on a reported threat to cut off oil shipments to the United States.

Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, said Chinese imports represent only a fraction of the 1.4 million barrels of oil the United States buys daily from Venezuela.

The export of Venezuelan oil to the United States, he said, is "a market-driven decision that is in the interests of both the seller and, like any market-driven decision, it's in the interest of the buyer."

Viewed as a business decision, the United States has several advantages over China in Venezuela's eyes, Shapiro said. It takes much longer for the fuel to reach China: Chinese ports are three weeks from Venezuela, he said, while U.S. ports are four days away.

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