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Tuesday, 7 April 2009 04:26 UK

      Japan and Venezuela trade energy 
            Venezuela needs Japan's investment; Japan needs Venezuela's 
      Japan and Venezuela have agreed to jointly pursue several oil and gas 

      The agreements were reached during the visit to Tokyo of Venezuelan 
President Hugo Chavez. 

      They include plans to explore for new oil sources in Venezuela's Orinoco 
belt, develop a new natural gas field and fund the upgrading of refineries. 

      Venezuela has some of the world's largest oil and gas reserves but the 
oil price drop has hit financing. 

      Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Mr Chavez agreed to set up a working 
team to explore the possibility of the development of oil at Venezuela's 
Orinoco oil belt and liquefied natural gas, as well as funding for the 
operations, Japanese foreign ministry officials said. 

      Energy allies 

      The two countries aim to become "energy allies", with Venezuela hoping to 
eventually supply Japan with one million barrels of oil per day, Mr Chavez was 
quoted as saying by Venezuela's state-run Bolivarian News Agency, or ABN. 

      The president said Japanese companies could also be involved in railway 
projects, housing and highway construction in Venezuela. 

      State-affiliate Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, Inpex 
Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation will pursue a joint feasibility study 
with Venezuela on the Orinoco oil belt in the next two years, Venezuela's 
Energy Secretary Rafael Ramirez said at a signing ceremony in Tokyo. 

      Venezuela also agreed with four Japanese trading houses - Mitsubishi, 
Itochu, Mitsui & Co and Marubeni - to begin participating in the development of 
a gas field for liquefied natural gas, said Mr Ramirez, who is also the head of 
the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA. 

      If realised, it could allow much of the LNG to be brought over to Japan 
beyond 2013, he said. 

      Separately, Venezuela signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan 
Bank of International Cooperation, Mitsubishi and Itochu for loans totalling 
$1.5bn (£1bn) to finance the upgrade of two refineries. 

      This follows a credit line of $3.5bn opened in 2007. 

      The two nations have enjoyed diplomatic relations for 70 years. Mr Chavez 
last visited Japan in 1999, the year he took office. He and Mr Aso were 
reported to have discussed baseball before getting down to business.


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