Qatar vows to continue LNG supply, mum on prices

Kyodo

Qatar promised to continue supplying Japan with liquefied natural gas during a ministerial meeting in Tokyo but did not respond to a request to lower the cost, Japanese officials said.

At the outset Monday of the Japan-Qatar Joint Economic Committee meeting, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said fuel costs for thermal power generation are the country’s “major concern” in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and asked the world’s largest LNG producer to cooperate in providing an “inexpensive” supply.

But the officials said the Qatari representatives did not clearly touch on price issues during the meeting.

“The Qatari side reiterated its commitment to continuing and expanding its supply of oil and LNG to Japan at mutually acceptable terms and conditions in a stable and reliable manner,” according to a joint statement released after the meeting.

Linked to the price of crude oil under long-term contracts, the price of LNG imported by Japan has been relatively high. LNG imports from Qatar nearly doubled in fiscal 2011 from fiscal 2010 as Japan boosted thermal power generation amid the nuclear crisis, according to the officials.

The two countries, meanwhile, agreed to work toward resuming talks for a free-trade accord between Japan and a group of Middle Eastern countries. The negotiations have not been held since 2009.

With Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the two countries also agreed to expand cooperation in infrastructure development, including the construction of stadiums, as well as on transportation and desalination projects.

Doha Bank bullish

The chief executive officer of Doha Bank, a major private Qatari commercial bank, said its branch office in Tokyo has made big contributions to promoting investment and trade between Japan and the Persian Gulf country.

The Qatari bank set up the office in 2007, becoming the only Middle Eastern financial institution to have a business base in Japan even as several financial institutions from other Middle Eastern countries withdrew from the market.

“We showcased (to Japan) how important the gulf market is,” Raghavan Seetharaman said Monday.