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NEWS RELEASE 01-020; February 12, 2001 February 12, 2001
News Release 01-020
Inv. No. 332-426

ITC LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION OF RECENT REFORMS OF NATURAL GAS SERVICES IN SELECTED MARKETS; SEEKS INPUT FROM INTERESTED PARTIES

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has initiated an investigation of the natural gas services markets in countries that have undertaken significant regulatory reform.

The ITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, will conduct the investigation, Natural Gas Services: Recent Reforms in Selected Markets (Investigation No. 332-426), at the request of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

In its request letter, the USTR noted that the natural gas industry in many countries is evolving from a monopolistic into a competitive industry with increasing numbers and types of participants. The letter said that countries have reformed their natural gas sectors largely by privatizing and unbundling state-owned assets, providing open access to transmission (pipeline) networks, and permitting competition in production, distribution, and supply services. In many cases, reforms have been undertaken with a view to fostering competition and attracting foreign investment, according to the letter. Consequently, it continues, regulatory reform of the natural gas sector is likely to have a significant impact on market access opportunities and the competitive position of U.S. firms.

As requested by USTR, the ITC will examine the natural gas services markets in nine countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom) where significant market reform, privatization, and liberalization has occurred or is ongoing.

As requested, the ITC will investigate the nature of reform, including, but not limited to, the extent of privatization, vertical and horizontal restructuring, and consumer choice, as applicable; examine current market access conditions, including, but not limited to, measures affecting network access, investment, and trading (i.e., the exchange of natural gas contracts through financial markets), as applicable; and identify common regulatory practices adopted by multiple countries, insofar as they exist. For the purpose of this study, natural gas services will focus on the downstream natural gas market, including the following segments: transmission (including transport and storage); distribution; wholesale and retail supply; and trading.

The ITC expects to submit its report on natural gas to the USTR by October 16, 2001.

The ITC seeks input for this report from all interested parties. The ITC will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation on at 9:30 a.m. on April 3, 2001. Requests to appear at the hearing should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on March 20, 2001, with the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436. For further information about the hearing, call 202-205-1816.

The ITC also welcomes written submissions for the record. Written submissions (one original and 14 copies) should be addressed to the Secretary at the above address and should be submitted at the earliest practical date but no later than 5:15 p.m. on April 25, 2001.

Further information on the scope of the investigation and appropriate submissions is available in the ITC's notice of investigation, dated February 9, 2001, which can be obtained from the ITC Internet site (www.usitc.gov) or by contacting the Office of the Secretary at the above address or at 202-205-1816.

ITC general factfinding investigations, such as this one, cover matters related to tariffs or trade. The investigations are generally conducted at the request of USTR, the Senate Committee on Finance, or the House Committee on Ways and Means; the ITC may also self-initiate investigations. The resulting reports convey the Commission's objective findings and independent analyses on the subjects investigated. The Commission makes no recommendations on policy or other matters in its general factfinding reports. Upon completion of each investigation, the ITC submits its findings and analyses to the requester. General factfinding investigation reports are subsequently released to the public, unless they are classified by the requester for national security reasons.

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