Energy ministers of key Western industrial nations agreed here today on new oil-import controls designed primarily to hold down oil purchases from the organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
"We had a good meeting, made progress and . . . showed that we mean business," said U.S. Energy Secretary Charles Duncan. The ministerial session set policies to reach the energy-saving goals adopted at the Western economic summit in Tokyo earlier this year. The United States, Japan, France, Britain, Italy, West Germany, and Canada were represented today, along with Ireland, the current Common Market chairman.
The main new measures are national import targets for the Common Market countries, and a register of all crude-oil transactions to curb speculation on the volatile spot market for oil.
Oil-import ceilings for 1985 were announced today for each of the nine Common Market countries; an agreement on the ceilings was reached last night. At the Tokyo summit, the European participants had simply agreed to a collective Common Market ceiling by 1985 of 470 million tons of imports a year -- roughly the present level.
Under the ceilings announced today, France and Denmark will hold their oil imports roughly level, while the imports of the other Common Market countries will rise slightly by 1985. The only exception is Britain, which pledged to become a net oil exporter.
While the Common Market retains some leeway to import extra oil from Britain's North Sea fields, the new national targets will limit the freedom of European countries to maneuver in the world oil market, participants said.
The United States had hoped to set European countries to include any North Sea imports in their national targets -- in other words, to agree that they would not use added North Sea imports as a means of bypassing the ceilings.
But U.S. officials said after today's meeting that the amount of North Sea imports probably would not be significant, even for West Germany, the most prosperous Common Market country. "And we feel that the adoption of country-by-country targets is an important step forward," a U.S. participant said.
On U.S. compliance with its Tokyo commitment, Duncan said that the Carter administration will proceed with its plans to institute import quotas by the end of the year. He said that public hearings on how to administer the quota program would be announced in the next few weeks. The United States has pledged to hold its imports to last year's level of 8.5 million barrels a day.