April 29, 2019 / 1:20 PM / 6 months ago

Pompeo 'confident' China trade talks will not be hurt over Iran oil sanctions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday expressed confidence that trade talks between the United States and China will not be affected by the end of Iran oil waivers this week.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Pompeo warned countries and companies that it would be a costly mistake to violate U.S. sanctions by importing Iranian oil after Wednesday, when the waivers for eight importers end.

China, India and Turkey are among Iran’s largest oil importers that were granted waivers from U.S. sanctions to allow them time to find alternative supplies.

“We have had lots of talks with China about this issue,” Pompeo said at a newsmaker event by The Hill news outlet. “I’m confident that the trade talks will continue and run their natural course.”

His comments come as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin heads to Beijing and said he hopes the two economic powerhouses can finalize a trade deal with two more rounds of talks left..

Pompeo said the United States had worked to find alternative oil supplies to ensure the global oil market is well stocked as oil purchases from Iran are cut.

“We are convinced we can make sure the markets are adequately supplied. We are continuing to work on that,” he said.

“Companies that choose to violate the sanctions ... we will pursue and we will ensure they are held accountable for the violations they engage in,” he said.

Trump administration official said on Friday that neither a wind-down period nor a short-term waiver on China’s oil purchases are being considered.

Under U.S. sanctions law, importers of Iranian oil including China, India and Turkey, could be allowed a wind-down period before getting to zero oil purchases, including a short-term waiver. Any wind-down measures would be different than the 180 day exceptions the Trump administration granted in November to China and seven other importers for significantly reducing oil purchases from Iran, measures set to end in May.

The United States reimposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after U.S. President Donald Trump last spring unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott

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