By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) can easily meet EU demand and European criticism of the need for regulatory clearance for such exports is unfounded, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump agreed with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker in July 2018 not to impose tariffs on EU cars as the two sides sought to improve economic ties, including a drive to increase U.S. exports of LNG
The Commission said in March that LNG imports from the United States had almost tripled since the agreement.
However, it also said then that the United States needed to end restrictions, notably a requirement for prior regulatory approval of all LNG exports, for those exports to reach their full potential.
Perry told a briefing of reporters before an EU-U.S. energy council on Thursday that Trump had been clear on the need to issue export permits as efficiently as possible.
"The previous administration was not necessarily that transparent in the expediting of permits," he said. "The president of the United States today does not want to see permits held up on some bureaucrat's desk."
"This administration has removed a substantial, if not all, of the hurdles from the permitting process," he continued.
Perry added he would be signing a large export order on Thursday with a couple of companies, without naming them.
The EU, which is reliant on Russia for almost 40 percent of its gas needs, has long worked to diversify its supply by developing LNG infrastructure.
However, EU officials have stressed that the extent to which LNG imports can win market share from Russia will depend on market forces.
Perry said Europe needed to diversify its suppliers and import routes and build more pipelines to move gas around the region. He also questioned whether price should be the only determining factor.
"Is a free and unencumbered gas supply worth something to you? The Ukrainians might tell you they might be able to buy gas a few cents cheaper but if cut off in the middle of the winter what's the price of that?" Perry asked.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)