July 11 (UPI) -- Escalating economic growth concerns over trade and the return of Libya to the oil market on Wednesday sent oil prices lower before markets opened.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to a U.S. list of tariffs on another $200 billion in goods by saying U.S. President Donald Trump was a bully on trade.
"This is a war between unilateralism and multilateralism, between protectionism and free trade, and between power and rules," spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying. "China will work with the international community to jointly safeguard the multilateral trading system and rules."
Trade tensions threaten to undermine global economic momentum and crimp the demand for oil. Economists at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said Wednesday the global economy slows from an expected rate of 3.8 percent for gross domestic product in 2018 to 3.6 percent next year, but downplayed the risk for a trade war.
If trade tensions do escalate, OPEC economists warned, there could be global consequences.
"Hence, if trade tensions rise further, and given other uncertainties, it could weigh on business and consumer sentiment," they wrote. "This may then start to negatively impact investment, capital flows and consumer spending, with a subsequent negative effect on the global oil market."
The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark for the price of oil, was down 2.1 percent as of 9:18 a.m. EDT to $77.19 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, was down 1.1 percent to $73.28 per barrel.
The slump was triggered earlier on Wednesday when the U.N.-backed Libyan National Oil Corp. said it lifted a suspension of crude oil loading at four terminals after it regained control after several days of dispute.
Libyan oil production was cut in half because of national security issues, though the NOC said its output would soon return to normal.
Libyan problems supported crude oil prices in recent weeks given the concerns about the lack of spare capacity on the market. Looming problems for Iran, the third-largest OPEC producer, added to long-term concerns.
OPEC on Wednesday said demand for its crude oil declines next year on the back of slowing consumption and stronger production from non-member states.