#21 - JRL 2009-229 - JRL Home
Moscow Times
December 16, 2009
Gas Forum to Focus On Gaining Clout
By Anatoly Medetsky

The fledging forum of gas exporting countries will seek to expand membership and gain international clout before it makes decisions on investment and pipelines, newly elected chief executive Leonid Bokhanovsky said Tuesday.

Russia, Qatar, Iran and eight other gas-rich countries across the globe took another step in consolidating their Gas Exporting Countries Forum by electing Bokhanovsky as its secretary general last week. Consumer countries are waiting to see whether the group will try to fix prices like OPEC.

“The goal of turning the organization into a gas OPEC is off the agenda so far and will not be considered in the near future,” Bokhanovsky said at a news conference. “First of all, we need … to define our place in the system of international economic relations.”

The forum will represent the joint position of its members, which now account for 44 percent of global gas exports, on the current state and prospects of the market, Bokhanovsky said. Its influence could grow if potential talks to include Australia and Canada are successful, he said.

Members may take concerted actions after the forum takes its “rightful” place on the international scene and leading gas market players agree to base their development policies on the forum’s forecasts and recommendations, Bokhanovsky said.

“We are still too young,” he said. “Over time, we may work out a consolidated position on investment projects, the most optimal routes for laying pipelines and other issues.”

Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller was curt Tuesday when asked about how the company could benefit from the forum’s activity. He said only that the group would help the firm in terms of forecasting the balance of supply and demand on the global market.

One year after the group passed a formal charter last December, it has yet to make the document public, raising concerns about the organization’s transparency. Bokhanovsky said Tuesday that it would publish the charter ­ and summaries of future meetings ­ on its web site.

Bokhanovsky, an executive in charge of foreign projects at engineering company Stroitransgaz, ran for the new post against five other nominees from Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Iran and Trinidad and Tobago. He won after some of the competitors stepped down at a ministerial meeting in Qatar, and his victory gave Russia the lead in shaping up the group at its early stage, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said at the same news conference.

“The recognition of Russia as a leader of this process is inspiring,” he said.

The group’s other members are Algeria, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea and Venezuela. Kazakhstan, Norway and Holland are observers.

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