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API, LNG Allies Reach Out to Trump Administration Over Policies

The executive board of the American Petroleum Institute (API), along with several Big Oil executives, met with President Trump and Vice President Pence at the White House on Thursday to discuss a range of issues that affect the oil and natural gas industry.

Meanwhile, a nonprofit organization that supports U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports
sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Wednesday, urging him to issue an exemption for all steel imports used in export facilities.

API disclosed that it discussed tax reform and "smarter regulations" at the White House meeting and only hinted that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports were discussed. The tariffs were enacted earlier this month by the Trump administration, much to the consternation of API, other trade groups and many Republicans.

"As the world's largest producer and refiner of natural gas and oil, the administration's policies are enabling the natural gas and oil industry to create American jobs, reduce the U.S. trade deficit, build world class infrastructure and support innovation in clean energy technology," an API spokesperson told NGI on Thursday. "API executives highlighted a host of the industry's priority issues, including the importance of trade policies that recognize the integrated nature of North American and global markets.

"In particular, they discussed the industry's desire to continue working with the administration on necessary investment protections that advance the industry's contributions to the U.S. economy, national security and reliable energy for American consumers."

ExxonMobil Corp. CEO Darren Woods, BP America Inc. President John Mingé, Chevron Corp. CEO Mike Wirth and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. CEO Al Walker also attended the meeting, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the meeting, said about a dozen U.S. oil and gas executives attempted to impress upon Trump the importance of maintaining binding dispute settlement procedures within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), arguing that they are needed to promote confidence in investing in Canada and Mexico.

However, Trump, whowants to renegotiate NAFTA, apparently did not share their views.

"I can confirm that the importance of NAFTA to the U.S. energy market was highlighted, as well as the importance of retaining and strengthening investor-state dispute settlement and investor protections in NAFTA, and the potential impact of steel tariffs," NGI was told on Friday by a second unnamed source with knowledge of the meeting.

Earlier this month, Trump followed through with his proposal to levy a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum. Canada and Mexico would be excluded, at least for now. Most of the steel imported into the United States is from Canada.

Complete Exemption Sought

The proclamation signed by Trump that created the tariffs also authorized Ross to issue exemptions for specialty steel products, such as those used in oil and gas pipelines, whenever there is insufficient capacity of comparable products from domestic steel manufacturers. It also gave the Commerce secretary 10 days to come up with a procedure for requesting exemptions.

The nonprofit group LNG Allies wasted no time in reaching out.

"We believe that the U.S. LNG export industry is such an enormous 'engine' of jobs and economic growth to merit a full, complete, and immediate exemption from the proclamation," wrote LNG Allies CEO Fred Hutchison. "The U.S. LNG export industry is at a crucial stage of early development. Global competition is fierce and when it comes to the next generation of liquefaction projects, only the lowest-cost facilities will be built."

Hutchison added that in a previous letter to Trump, LNG Allies had noted that "much of the steel used to build LNG export projects is either not produced at all in the United States or not made here in sufficient quantity. Thus, American LNG projects will surely become more expensive as a result of the new tariffs."

Other trade groups, including API, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, the Natural Gas Supply Association and the GPA Midstream Association have urged the Trump administration to consider exemptions for specialty steel products, especially when there isn't a sufficient domestic supply.

During a press briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is "making sure that we're protecting American industry and American workers.

"He specifically thinks that it's important that we protect the steel and aluminum industry, due to the fact of making sure that we have the ability to still manufacture those goods for the purpose of national security."

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