Asia, Business & trade, Energy, New in Lobbying, US-China tensions

China oil giant’s US trading arm hires New York firm for Biden outreach

The US trading arm of China’s largest oil and gas company has hired a New York lobbying firm as it looks to make nice with the Joe Biden administration after bilateral tensions under President Donald Trump disrupted the country’s oil and gas supply.

Houston-based Unipec America, Inc. hired Davidoff Hutcher & Citron on April 30 to provide “government relations consulting” and “regular updates on legislative and regulatory activities” related to commodities and trade that could impact the China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec). The contract runs from May 1 through April 30, 2021, and is worth $17,500 per month ($210,000 for the year).

Jonathan McCollum, who chairs the firm’s federal government relations group in its Washington office, registered on the firm’s behalf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). He is expected to reach out to Congress and the executive branch on “regulations and policy related to commodities trading” as needed.

The world’s largest oil refining, gas and petrochemical conglomerate, state-owned Sinopec ranks as the second-largest company on Fortune’s Global Fortune 500 list, behind only Walmart, with $407 billion in revenue in 2019. Trade tensions with the United States however have taken a toll, with Unipec suspending its imports of US crude oil between September 2018 and April 2019 while President Xi Jinping urged Chinese agencies and companies to increase domestic oil and gas exploration and production in order to ensure the country’s national energy security.

Unipec’s new contract aims to improve relations with the US government and position the company as a resource for the Biden administration as it weighs new environmental and other energy regulations. The company looks to advance its interests by communicating its efforts to improve environmental standards and open direct lines of communication with relevant administration officials.

While this is Unipec’s first registration under FARA, parent company Sinopec previously retained the services of Global Strategies Ltd. for $32,000 per month, which in turned subcontracted work to Cowan Strategies Company and Amagai Policy Advisors. The effort was led by Global Strategies Chairman Lynn Tian, a longtime China adviser for Patton Boggs and founder of the Asian Republican Coalition, and Mark Cowan, a former CIA officer who worked in three Republican administrations.

As part of the engagement, Tian and Cowan reported lobbying the Trump administration and members of Congress from oil-and-gas states and/or serving on the House and Senate energy committees. The effort began in May 2016 and appears to have ended in May 2018 (Global Strategies never registered under FARA).


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