USMCA and Latin American Energy Diplomacy Under a New US Congress

USMCA and Latin American Energy Diplomacy Under a New US Congress

Dec 11 2018 – Washington DC

November’s midterm elections altered the balance of power in Washington, and the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, which will mean new chairs on key committees, will play an important role in shaping US energy diplomacy and energy markets in the Western Hemisphere. At an event co-hosted by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Institute of the Americas, panelists discussed how the new Congress will approach key issues affecting energy within the context of Latin America’s evolving role in US trade and foreign policy.

In his keynote remarks, Nelson Cunningham, president of McLarty Associates, stressed that the approval of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) will take center stage as the new Congress assumes power, with major consequences for North American trade. Though the Democratic base has become increasingly pro-trade, Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats may be reluctant to yield a major political win to President Donald Trump, and Pelosi could attempt to stall a vote on the deal as she did with the Colombia Free Trade Agreement in 2008.

At least publicly, Democratic leaders have expressed their desire to work with the president on reaching an agreement, which could deliver some minor improvements over the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but they have concerns about elements related to labor and the environment, as well as about the deal’s overall enforceability, panelists noted. It remains to be seen whether the president is willing to negotiate or will resort immediately to his nuclear option: a unilateral withdrawal from NAFTA, which would leave Democrats with six months to decide between the USMCA and the grim alternative of no free trade deal at all. All parties would lose in North America’s highly integrated energy industry, including US refiners and gas producers that import crude oil, steel, and aluminum from both neighboring countries and export heavily to Mexico.

Beyond trade, Congress also has broad powers in global energy diplomacy. The House has important influence on areas such as foreign aid, tax policy, and natural gas exports. Panelists discussed strategic goals the new Congress can pursue next year, such as preventing oil from becoming part of conflicts in the region and reinforcing political stability and good governance. In particular, two new committee chairs will shoulder special responsibility in setting the agenda. Representative Eliot Engel, who will take the helm as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, brings a strong track record in US-Latin America engagement, having previously chaired the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee. Representative Albio Sires will assume the top role on that subcommittee, and will emphasize his tough stance on Venezuela and on Cuba, where he was born. Closer cooperation on energy in the hemisphere will benefit both the US and Latin American partners, and in the current complex political environment, the new Congress should resolve not to let it fall by the wayside.

Brazil’s Oil & Gas Industry Capacity Building: Lessons Learned from the PRH-ANP Human Resources Program

Brazil’s Oil & Gas Industry Capacity Building: Lessons Learned from the PRH-ANP Human Resources Program

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In 1997 the Brazilian National Congress sanctioned the Petroleum Law (Law nº 9.478), which allowed the Government to contract private or public companies to execute research, exploration, refining, import, export and transport activities of crude oil, natural gas and oil products from any origin.
Brazil’s Oil & Gas Industry Capacity Building: Lessons Learned from the PRH-ANP Human Resources Program

Visit of the Argentine delegation from ENRE to California

Visit of the Argentine delegation from ENRE to California

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The purpose of this report is to summarize ENRE’s official visit to California in terms of insights and knowledge acquired. The trip included a visit to the three pillars of the electric system in California: The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Visit of the Argentine delegation from ENRE to California

Mexico’s Fuels Market and Infrastructure – A Complex Transition

Mexico’s Fuels Market and Infrastructure – A Complex Transition

Mexico’s energy reforms have brought a major overhaul of the nation’s entire energy sector. Among the myriad changes being implemented, major opportunities have emerged with regards to Mexico’s fuels and liquids market, as well as infrastructure development associated with fuel sales, supply, storage and distribution. Mexico’s fuels market is the fourth largest in the world and has experienced considerable growth in the last several years making it attractive to a wide-range of companies and investors. Growth is driven by transportation, power demand and underpinned by strong population growth.

Last year saw several deregulation milestones met on the path toward a liberalized fuel market, as well as important advances in open seasons aimed at ultimately boosting related infrastructure, both in liquid fuels and natural gas.  In what has become a rapidly changing market, a growing list of international companies, traders and Mexican firms have begun to develop projects with an eye to establishing themselves in Mexico’s fuel and liquids business.

This “complex transition” was at the center of three high-level discussion panels hosted by the Institute of the Americas on February 27 in Mexico City and attended by over 90 representatives from industry, government, and academia.

Panelists generally agreed that development of the fuel market was on the right track and that the reform measures had boosted investment in energy infrastructure. The proliferation of new market players (40 brands as of this week) in the fuel retail market and the choices being created for consumers is important.

But, there was less consensus on whether Mexico would soon see a truly competitive fuels market that could fully serve the growing demand in Mexico and its citizens, not to mention what the key next steps should be before the July elections. In an interesting development, several speakers put on the table the need for further energy reform in Mexico. Panelists also argued that government and industry alike must continue to aim for efficiency, continuity, stability and long-term regulatory certainty.

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