The Iran deal dwarfs everything else. At present, Iran is the third-biggest source of China's oil imports, providing 12 per cent of the total in the first 10 months of 2006, behind Angola and Saudi Arabia. Russia comes next.
About half of China's oil comes from the Middle East, growing to an anticipated 70 per cent by 2015. And it has a strong incentive to focus more heavily on Iran, where there are fewer competitors. American companies are forbidden from investing there.
But Iran needs fresh investment merely to maintain the output of its aged and declining oil fields at the present 4 million barrels a day. Iran's constitution does not allow foreign firms to own access to the country's natural resources. But they are permitted to finance the development, technically give Iran control, and recover their investment at an agreed rate from the output - as would happen with the massive Yadavaran field."