Opec exit frees Qatar from US legal concerns | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, December 14, 2018

Opec exit frees Qatar from US legal concerns

Even before taking over Qatar's energy policy in a government reshuffle last month, Qatar Petroleum (QP) CEO Saad al-Kaabi had long wanted the Gulf state to leave Opec.

Kaabi was concerned Opec membership could be a stumbling block for QP's ambitions in the United States, where it has one of the world's biggest LNG terminals, and a distraction as Doha doubles down on gas production, three industry sources said.

Proposed US legislation known as NOPEC (No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act) could expose members of the oil exporters club to antitrust lawsuits, a risk for QP at a time it is planning to invest billions more in the United States.

The sources said Qatar's exit had been in the works for months, driven by Kaabi's desire to focus on Qatar's strength in liquefied national gas (LNG) rather than Opec, where Doha has little say anyway because it doesn't produce much oil.

“It takes Qatar out of the whole debate within the US Congress on whether or not Opec is a cartel,” said James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “If anything it puts Qatar in America's good books.”

The decision to leave after 57 years just two days ahead of a crucial Opec output policy meeting in Vienna last week also struck many as a shot at Saudi Arabia, which along with the Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates has imposed a boycott on Qatar since June 2017.

The absence of Qatar's emir from an annual Gulf Arab summit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday was then seen as a sign there is no end in sight to the dispute and that Qatar is set to go it alone - outside a six-nation Gulf Arab bloc fractured by the rift.

Qatar would nevertheless still welcome the lifting of the trade and transport boycott which has hit national carrier Qatar Airways, companies with interests in boycotting states and demand from regional investors and banks.

The countries boycotting Qatar accuse it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the charge.

US President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, blaming it for high oil prices. Opec members have also been unnerved by the souring of US-Saudi relations over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.

The US Senate is considering this week a joint resolution condemning Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi's murder. Trump told Reuters he stands by the crown prince as de facto ruler of a strategic ally, saying he has repeatedly denied involvement in the killing.

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