Top energy officials from major oil importers the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India met in Beijing Monday with their Chinese counterparts to explore ideas about restraining and stabilizing crude oil prices.
"The five giant oil consumers are turning from competitors into cooperators," said Li Xiaogang with the Foreign Investment Research Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
"If they could team up to balance OPEC, the world's crude oil market would fluctuate less," Lin Boqiang, director of the China Energy Research Institute at Xiamen University, told China Business on Monday.
The move came after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Nations agreed to scale back daily output by a million barrels, the first oil production reduction in two years.
Expert Guan Qingyou with the China Academy of Social Sciences predicted that the five countries might strike a price negotiation agreement to deal with possible price fluctuations.
They may also seek to reach a consensus on crude oil transportation, Guan said.
Providing nearly one-third of the world's oil output annually, OPEC has the largest say in oil pricing. The official prices set by OPEC and the the price of crude futures at the New York Merchandise Exchange have always been viewed as the weather vane of oil pricing. .
China, the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India consume nearly 45.5 percent of the world's 3.77 billion tons of oil. But hikes in the oil price are constraining their economic development.
To remedy the situation, the five major consumers have begun to cooperate.
Karen A Harbert, Assistant Minister of the U.S Energy Department, said last month in Beijing that China and the United States should join hands to promote energy efficiency and develop renewable resources.
Around 20 oil projects involving investments of five billion U.S.dollars are being jointly developed in China by the two sides.
Japan and India are also interested in cooperation. For example, Sinopec and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation have teamed up to acquire a 50 percent stake in a Colombian oil company at a cost of 800 million U.S. dollars.
"When cooperation among the five nations materializes, crude oil prices might fall. The bottom line of 55 U.S. dollars per barrel set by OPEC might not hold," said professor Dong Xiucheng with China University of Petroleum.