INHOFE CALLS FOR BURMA TO BE OPEN TO U.S. OIL & GAS EXPLORATION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, today delivered the following opening statement during the nomination hearing for Derek Mitchell to be U.S. Ambassador to Burma:

Remarks as Prepared: 

Thank you, Chairman Webb for holding this hearing on sending a U.S. Ambassador back to Burma for the first time since 1992.  I want to welcome Ambassador Mitchell, who currently serves as the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma.  I understand that we will have our own visit tomorrow, and I look forward to going into further details about your potential posting.   

As you know, I am very interested in the ability of our American oil and gas industry to compete for business in Burma as soon as possible.  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.   

Senator Webb and I wrote a letter on May 4, 2012 to Secretary Clinton which stated that it would be a “strategic mistake” to exclude the U.S. petroleum industry in the suspension of U.S. sanctions on Burma.  Her response on May 23 was encouraging when she wrote that certain sanctions would remain, but there was no mention that American oil and gas firms would be excluded. 

I have heard rumors, however, that there is an intent by this Administration to quote, “carve out” the American petroleum industry from doing business in Burma by slow rolling the issuing of licenses to this industry by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.   

I reiterate that this or any other carve out strategy would be a strategic mistake.   I believe that ‘U.S. companies, including the oil and gas companies, can play a positive role in the effort by demonstrating high standards of responsible business conduct and transparency, including respect for human rights’ in Burma.  

Don’t you agree Mr. Ambassador?   I hope so because this is a direct quote from a State Department response to my Question For The Record from our hearing on Burma back on April 26.  And I could not be in more agreement. 

So thank you again Mr. Chairman for holding this nomination hearing.   I look forward to Ambassador Mitchell’s responses to the points I raised, as I do note that his testimony does not address the petroleum industry concern that is shared by me, the Ranking Member of the East Asian and Pacific Subcommittee and you Senator Webb, its Chairman.  Interesting.    

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