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China will 'compel' Saudi Arabia to trade oil in yuan — and that's going to affect the US dollar

  • "I believe that yuan pricing of oil is coming and as soon as the Saudis move to accept it — as the Chinese will compel them to do — then the rest of the oil market will move along with them," Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High Frequency Economics, told CNBC
  • In recent years, several nations opposed to the dollar being the world's reserve currency have progressively sought to try and abandon it
  • OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia is at the crux of the petrodollar

China will "compel" Saudi Arabia to trade oil in yuan and, when this happens, the rest of the oil market will follow suit and abandon the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency, a leading economist told CNBC on Monday.

Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High Frequency Economics, said Beijing stands to become the most dominant global player in oil demand since China usurped the U.S. as the "biggest oil importer on the planet."

Saudi Arabia has "to pay attention to this because even as much as one or two years from now, Chinese demand will dwarf U.S. demand," Weinberg said.

"I believe that yuan pricing of oil is coming and as soon as the Saudis move to accept it — as the Chinese will compel them to do — then the rest of the oil market will move along with them."

Crux of the petrodollar

In recent years, several nations opposed to the dollar being the world's reserve currency have progressively sought to try and abandon it.

For instance, Russia and China have sought to operate in a non-dollar environment when trading oil. Both countries have also increased their efforts to mine and acquire physical gold if, or perhaps when, the dollar collapses.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia is at the crux of the petrodollar.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on March 16, 2017 in Beijing, China.
Lintao Zhang | Pool | Getty Images
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shake hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on March 16, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Since a 1974 agreement between U.S. President Richard Nixon and Saudi King Faisal, Saudi Arabia has accepted payments for nearly all of its oil exports in dollars. However, as China imports more and more oil from countries across the world, the idea of having to purchase that same oil in dollars has become increasingly irritable to Beijing.

In recent years, China has sought to ratchet up the pressure on Saudi Arabia over the form of currency in which their oil trade is conducted, with Riyadh now enjoying less and less oil purchases from Beijing.

What does it mean for the dollar?

When asked what it could mean for the dollar should the oil market move oil trade out of the U.S. currency and into the yuan, Weinberg said the world's transaction currency would suffer "lesser demand for U.S. securities across the board."

"Moving oil trade out of dollars into yuan will take right now between $600 billion and $800 billion worth of transactions out of the dollar… (That) means a stronger demand for things in China, whether it's securities or whether it's goods and services. It is a growth plus for China and that's why they want this to happen."

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