Washington is facing growing international pressure to ease its long standing ban on crude oil exports, with South Korea and Mexico joining the European Union in pressing the case for U.S. oil shipments overseas.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye told a visiting U.S. delegation of lawmakers on the House of Representatives energy committee on Aug. 11 that tapping into the gusher of ultra-light, sweet crude emerging from places like Texas and North Dakota was a priority, the lawmakers said.
One of South Korea's leading refiners has opened discussions with the government in Seoul over how to encourage Washington to open the taps, three sources in South Korea with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Mexico is also eagerly awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Commerce on possible shipments and the EU wants U.S. oil and natural gas exports covered by a proposed trade agreement with Washington, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Joe Barton, Republican Representative from Texas and one of the lawmakers who met Park, told Reuters that lifting the ban would boost the U.S. economy, but also provide allies with a reliable energy trading partner.
"I'm in favor of overturning the ban on crude oil exports," he said.
The South Korea talks, which have not previously been reported, are an indication of how swiftly pressure on the Obama administration to relax the ban on oil exports has broadened, and also how it is increasingly being questioned in the context of oft-touted free-trade agreements (FTAs).
In a meeting with Republican U.S. Representatives Barton, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Leonard Lance of New Jersey, President Park said she hoped for Congress's help in "allowing U.S. condensate exports to FTA partner South Korea" and developing shale gas reserves, according to a statement from the presidential office. She did not specify what kind of involvement in developing shale gas she sought.
White House officials declined to comment on whether the Obama administration has had talks with South Korea or other countries on oil exports.