| LONDON, April 4
LONDON, April 4 The International Energy Agency
will invite China and other emerging economies to take part in
key strategic talks, sources in the IEA said, in a bid to
strengthen ties with non-members whose share in global oil
demand has rapidly grown.
The initiative to form an "association" between the West's
energy watchdog, combining 28 industrialised economies, and
non-members is aimed at "creating a closer alliance on energy
security, environmental sustainability and data sharing," a
source at the Paris-based agency said.
China, the world's top energy consumer, India, Russia,
South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia are the main countries
targeted by the initiative.
"For more than 10 years, the IEA has looked at ways in which
to deepen its partnership with these countries," IEA chief Maria
Van der Hoeven told Reuters.
"'Association' is merely the latest term to describe this
initiative, and I must stress that no decisions have been made -
either within the IEA Secretariat, by the 28 IEA Member
countries, or the non-member countries themselves," she said.
The IEA includes only members of the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development, but not all OECD members
are in the IEA.
As the brunt of oil demand growth shifted from developed
countries to emerging economies over the past decade, the IEA
has reached out to non-members to build a credible response to
global energy crises, and ultimately to preserve its importance
as an international agency.
IEA members account for under half of the world's energy
consumption today. China alone jumped from accounting for under
5 percent of total global oil demand in 1994 to nearly 12
percent in 2013.
The initiative includes a proposal that non-member countries
be allowed to sit in meetings of the IEA governing board to
jointly discuss issues such as energy security and strategic
stock releases in response to supply, according to the sources.
Board meetings are held several times a year in Paris.
"What would the IEA get in return? Relevance," said a source
close to the agency. "We have to be engaged with countries like
China and India."
China, which is building up its strategic petroleum
reserves, may want to tap into the West's experience and
knowledge on reserves management, some of the sources said.
But that might not be enough to persuade China to commit to
providing energy trade data which it might think could
jeopardize strategic and economic interests, others said.
"China might want to keep the data to themselves as they are
the big player," one source said, declining to be identified.
"They want to keep their SPR management secret."
The proposed association could also prove controversial
among IEA members such as the United States and Japan who could
be concerned that sensitive information would be released with
Such difficulties became apparent late last year when the
IEA invited several non-members to attend an emergency response
exercise which dealt with several scenarios, including a supply
shock in the wake of a leadership change in Venezuela.
While India, Russia and Brazil were represented by senior
officials, China sent fairly junior representative, a
The emerging economies have meanwhile been invited to attend
the IEA's ministerial meeting in November, Van der Hoeven said.
A similar meeting took place in 2011.
The IEA was founded by members of the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) following the 1973
oil shock to manage supply crises.
In recent years, the accuracy of the IEA data and its
forecasts, published in closely watched monthly reports, has
come under internal and external scrutiny as the focus on oil
demand shifted away from IEA members.
While members of the developed economies regularly provide
data about energy imports and exports, non-members report on a
voluntary basis which often lacks transparency and accuracy.
"The data is our foundation," a source said.
This represents a challenge to the IEA's ability to provide
an accurate and comprehensive picture of current and forecast
oil stocks, with data on non-member countries, particularly
China, often revised.
The IEA has in recent years sought to improve data sharing
"For OECD countries we have well established monthly,
quarterly and annual questionnaires. For non-OECD countries, we
have either bilateral cooperation, memorandum of understanding,
exchange of data, formal and informal contacts depending of the
countries," according to Jean-Yves Garnier, head of the IEA
Energy Data Centre.
(Additional reporting by Peg Mackey; Reporting by Ron Bousso;
editing by David Sheppard and Jackie Frank)