TOKYO -- Japan's government will hold its first formal talks with a group of the world's top natural gas producers in hopes of lowering prices for a fuel that has surged in importance since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The secretary-general of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum will travel to Japan to meet with senior officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry next Monday.
Sometimes called the OPEC for gas, the forum includes Qatar, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
The two sides will begin a joint review of how liquefied natural gas is traded. Asian countries complain that the prices they pay for LNG are out of touch with actual supply and demand because they track the price of crude oil. Japan will push the GECF to adopt a pricing arrangement that reflects international supply and demand for LNG.
Meeting in Rome this week, energy ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries called for easing so-called destination clauses in LNG contracts, which prevent buyers from reselling the fuel. Doing so could expand the trade in LNG, helping bring prices down.
Japan's LNG imports have ballooned since 2011, topping 7 trillion yen ($68 billion) in the year ended March 31. Heightened Japanese demand for the fuel is keeping prices elevated.