United States oil and gas companies are ready to begin making investments in Myanmar, Republican Senator Jim Inhofe declared last week following a meeting with President U Thein Sein in Nay Pyi Taw.
Senator Inhofe, a ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, met the president on January 9.
“I appreciate the reforms President [U Thein] Sein is making in his country,” Senator Inhofe said.
“I commend him and the people of Myanmar for taking these important steps toward a democratic future, and I will look for ways the US can assist with those reforms. I told President [U Thein] Sein that I believe US companies, especially those in the oil and gas sectors, can play a positive role in demonstrating high standards of responsible business conduct and encourage free market policies, while at the same time protect human rights in this rich land.”
Senator Inhofe was joined by a Republican delegation that included Senator John Boozman of Arkansas and congressmen Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Vern Buchanan of Florida and Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, as well as US Ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell.
Senator Inhofe has been a vocal advocate of US oil and gas interests in Myanmar since the government launched its reform agenda.
“I am very interested in the ability of our American oil and gas industry to compete for business in Burma as soon as possible,” Senator Inhofe said in prepared remarks to a senate confirmation hearing for Mr Mitchell on June 27 in Washington.
“Unfortunately, that is not yet happening, and in the meantime, European Union oil and gas companies have been there since the suspension of EU sanctions against Burma in April. And of course, China and Russia are there.”
A longtime champion of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry, Senator Inhofe feared at the time that US President Barack Obama would block energy firms from investing in Myanmar when he began to ease sanctions. He described this possible exclusion of energy firms as a “carve out” strategy.
“I reiterate that this or any other carve out strategy would be a strategic mistake. I believe that US companies, including the oil and gas companies, can play a positive role in the effort by demonstrating high standards of responsible,” he said at the hearing.
The “carve out” Senator Inhofe warned against was avoided. In July, President Obama announced all US oil and gas corporations would be allowed to conduct activities in Myanmar, ending 15 years of US restriction on the sector.