SUBJECT: JAMAICA: LIQUID NATURAL GAS PROJECT IN DOUBT; SIGNIFICANT ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR THE REGION REF: A. 06 KINGSTON 1592 ¶B. 03 KINGSTON 467 ¶C. 03 PORT OF SPAIN 2184 ¶D. 04 PORT OF SPAIN 2042 ¶E. 06 PORT OF SPAIN 529 ¶F. 06 KINGSTON 1687 ¶1. (SBU) Summary: Ostensibly because of production constraints, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) reportedly will renege on its promise to supply Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) to Jamaica, thus jeopardizing a USD 1.6 billion expansion of Alcoa's alumina operations in Port Esquivel. Jamaica's lead role in the negotiation of the PetroCaribe agreement with Venezuela, which robbed T&T of a captive market, may well have been a factor in the GoTT's decision. This has significant political and economic implications, as Venezuela may now replace T&T as the largest supplier of energy in CARICOM. This latest development also underscores some of the difficulties faced by the regional integration movement. End summary. ---------- Background ---------- ¶2. (U) Jamaica has the dubious distinction of being one of the highest per-capita consumers of oil among non-oil producing countries (ref. A). During 2002 the country consumed 25 million barrels of oil worth USD 600 million. By 2006 the figure was 27 million, costing about USD 1.74 billion and translating into 10.53 boe (barrels of oil equivalent) per citizen. Relatively cheap prices (due to a flat versus variable tax on gas) combined with soaring demand from inefficient electricity and bauxite companies are the underlying reasons for the high per-capita consumption. This high and growing dependence on imported petroleum prompted the P.J. Patterson-led administration to embark on an energy diversification drive in 2002. Anthony Hylton, a former government minister at the time and now Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister was appointed an Ambassador/Special Envoy to drive a project to introduce Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) into the energy supply mix by March 2007 (ref. B). Hylton commissioned a number of studies, which concluded, inter alia, that the introduction of LNG would slash the country's fuel bill by as much as 30 percent. ¶3. (U) To develop a supply agreement, Jamaica initiated dialogue with Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) in 2002. In mid- 2003 discussions stalled (ref. C), as Jamaica argued that T&T was obligated to sell LNG on the same terms as it did to domestic firms (national treatment) - a "Caribbean" price. With the GOTT dissenting, Jamaica sought a legal opinion from the CARICOM Secretariat. Hylton, a lawyer himself, argued that while the opinion might not be decisive, it would be persuasive in Jamaica's favor. The response from the Secretariat, in late 2003, largely agreed with Jamaica, and by the end of 2004 the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding for the supply of 160 million cubic feet of LNG a day (ref. D). "This agreement is expected to lead to a competitive, predictable and assured long-term supply arrangement for LNG on an agreed base pricing and escalation basis," Patterson said at the time. "This is to be seen as just one of the great benefits that will flow from the integration of regional economies when the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) comes into being," he continued. ------------------ The Rhetoric Fades ------------------ ¶4. (U) Despite this MoU, a final deal remained elusive, prompting new Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to journey to T&T in May 2006 to get a firm commitment from Prime Minister Patrick Manning (ref. E). The visit was particularly timely, as the American-owned alumina producer Alcoa, which had announced a USD 1.6 billion expansion project based on the availability of LNG, reiterated its intention to postpone the investment until a deal was sealed. By the second day of Simpson-Miller's visit, Manning again reiterated his commitment to sell Jamaica 158 million cubic feet of LNG per day by 2009. The pricing provisions were expected to recognize Jamaica as a CARICOM partner, extending the principle of national treatment. However, by the end of 2006, the head of T&T's state-owned national gas company, Frank Look Kim, revealed that the country would not have enough natural gas to sell to Jamaica in the near future, thus further jeopardizing the Alcoa investment, while forcing the GOJ on the defensive. ¶5. (SBU) The GoJ, clearly pessimistic about the LNG project, and desperate to realize the Alcoa investment, changed their focus. Jamaican Cabinet Secretary Carlton Davis revealed, in December 2006, that the GoJ was placing coal firmly on its agenda as an alternative source of energy for the Alcoa project. He added that coal was always going to be an important part of the electricity company's future. Initial plans for land-based LNG storage facilities were changed due to cost and time factors, and the revised project cost was scaled back to a quarter of the original USD 400 million. At the same time, the GoJ began to look closely at ethanol as an alternative. Basil Waite, a recent member of the administration and now Executive Chairman of Global Energy Ventures, told emboffs that a proposed ethanol plant will be built on the 20 acre site in Port Esquivel which had been slated for the land-based LNG facility. -------- Game On? -------- ¶6. (U) The saga took a new twist in February, 2007 when Manning contradicted reports that T&T would renege on the MoU. Manning, who was attending the CARICOM Prime Ministerial sub-committee on external negotiations, noted that supply side constraints had indeed emerged, but stated that he would shortly inform Jamaica on how T&T could best satisfy Jamaica's LNG needs. He said that his government had completed arrangements with three gas companies to arrange supply, complete with time frames. "The GoTT is determined to satisfy its contractual obligations to the GOJ. An agreement was signed in good faith, and it is our determination, notwithstanding statements to the contrary coming from dubious sources," he told a press conference following the ministerial in Montego Bay, Jamaica. -------- Game Off -------- ¶7. (U) However, the supply side argument re-emerged a week later, with T&T again suggesting that due to increased demands for LNG locally and internationally, its LNG deal with Jamaica was now contingent on a formal cross-border agreement with Venezuela (Note: T&T and Venezuela have a protracted dispute regarding LNG fields and maritime boundaries. Endnote). The death knell was to be delivered shortly after that, when Manning admitted that T&T might not be able to honor its commitment due to supply problems. There is speculation that T&T lost interest in supplying Jamaica with LNG after the issues of national treatment and Petrocaribe arose. The development helped induce the GoJ to turn to the Venezuelan government. But whilst courting Chavez, the GoJ continues to suggest that it expects T&T to act in good faith and honor their commitment under the MoU. ¶8. (U) Manning's disclosure is not surprising given world LNG prices at record levels. Any extension of concessionary rates would have significant revenue implications for his country. In addition, T&T firms enjoy significant competitive advantages in the region due to their low electricity costs. Favorable terms for Jamaica would erode these benefits and eventually allow Jamaican firms to replace some of the goods now being imported from T&T, thereby narrowing T&T's USD 500 million trade surplus. ¶9. (SBU) It is further understandable given the political underpinnings of the Petrocaribe agreement. It is widely believed in Jamaica that T&T was irked by the GoJ's decision to turn to Venezuela to supply most of Jamaica's energy needs. The fact that this oil is bought on concessionary terms is of little comfort to T&T, since it lost a captive market. Commentators here believe that Jamaica's position as lead negotiator was considered a slap in the face to a CARICOM partner just when the integration process was gaining traction. ------- Comment ------- ¶10. (SBU) Jamaica's LNG initiative was contingent on the extension of concessionary prices from T&T, invoking the principle of national treatment. But given soaring international demand, supply bottlenecks, and the attendant record prices, this was always going to be challenging. Additionally, any extension of national treatment to Jamaica would have had important economic repercussions in T&T, which now enjoys significant competitive advantages because of its low domestic energy prices. Similar benefits to regional firms would undercut T&T's favorable trade balance with Jamaica. At the same time, Jamaica's role in negotiating the Petrocaribe agreement, which robbed Port of Spain of a captive market, seemed an undermining of the integration movement by one of its chief protagonists. Nevertheless, the GoTT could not protest such a lucrative deal, given its own reluctance to extend similar benefits to overburdened regional partners (ref. F). ¶11. (SBU) Comment cont'd: From the Jamaican perspective, T&T always has appeared to want to opt out of the MoU, and finally to have found a strong and acceptable justification. The supply bottleneck provided the perfect foil, and it therefore came as no surprise that Manning eventually reported that T&T had to delay the deal for this reason, while crudely suggesting that Jamaica seek refuge in Caracas. This has significant political and economic implications, as Venezuela may now replace T&T as the largest supplier of energy in CARICOM. Further energy concessions extend Venezuela's political reach in the region. Additionally, T&T might not escape unscathed, as Trinidadian firms which export to Jamaica could face some backlash (Note: According to a recent article in the Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica imports some 60 percent of Trinidadian manufactured exports. End note). Additionally, there is the possible impact on the CSME, as this latest episode serves as grist for the mill for those opposed to the integration movement. (Note: Septel will report on the implications of the recent agreement between the governments of Jamaica and Brazil aimed at assisting the modernization of the local sugar industry, and the development of ethanol. End note). -------------- Media Dogfight -------------- ¶12. (SBU) The fallout between the GoJ and GoTT has been reflected in a series of vituperative editorials appearing in the Jamaica Gleaner and the Trinidadian press. The Gleaner has accused the GoTT of "myopic economic nationalism," and Trinidad's Guardian newspaper of "jingoism." Likewise, both the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce and the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica have made public expressions of disappointment over the GoTT's actions. In an editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner on March 11, former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga also weighed in, comparing the LNG debacle to the disagreement between the two countries over the establishment of the Esso oil refinery in Kingston in 1958. At that time, Jamaica was accused "ignoring the spirit of the Treaty of Chaguaramas," and of "putting Jamaica first." Seaga argues against the "small-time thinking prevalent in the region," and suggests that the way forward is to position Jamaica as an independent supplier of LNG by building a storage facility to facilitate transshipment of LNG from Nigeria, Qatar, or elsewhere to the United States. End comment.
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