UPDATE 1-Sinopec prepares to buy U.S. LNG in case govt orders purchase -president

(adds background, China’s U.S. LNG imports in 2018)

BEIJING, March 5 (Reuters) - China’s Sinopec Corp will make arrangements to purchase liquefied national gas (LNG) from the United States as soon as they are ordered to do so by the government, Sinopec President Ma Yongsheng told Reuters on Tuesday.

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods

As part of the deal, there would be an $18 billion purchase of natural gas from Houston-based Cheniere Energy Inc, Wall Street Journal reported. Cheniere declined comment.

China, the world’s second-largest LNG buyer after Japan, imported just over 2 million tonnes of the super-chilled fuel in the first nine months of 2018, according to Chinese customs.

Imports have since almost dried up after Beijing announced a 10-percent tariff on U.S. LNG in September.

Top Chinese oil and gas group CNPC last year signed a 20-year deal to buy natural gas from Cheniere through 2043. Sinopec has yet to sign any long-term supply deal with any U.S. supplier.

Speaking on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament meeting, the Sinopec president also said China would likely form a national oil and gas pipeline company this year.

Reuters reported last week that the planned pipeline group will combine the long-distance pipeline assets of the country’s state-owned energy companies in the sector’s largest reshuffle in two decades.

Sinopec plans to shift from refining to more value-added chemicals due to rising competition from private refiners, Ma said. (Reporting by Meng Meng and Dominique Patton; Writing by Chen Aizhu in Singapore; Editing by Tom Hogue and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)