Politics and World Oil Economics: An Account of the International Oil Industry in Its Political Environment

By J. E. Hartshorn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX
Producers for Export: The Eastern Hemisphere

'W e have no legal department in the Kuwait Oil Company,' said Mr. William Fraser, managing director of that company, in a discussion of the nature of oil concession agreements at the Second Arab Oil Congress in Beirut in November 1960, 'and we practically never need to refer to the text of the concession.' Mr. Fraser, himself a Scottish lawyer, was commenting upon the argument of Mr. Frank Hendryx, an American lawyer then working for the Saudi Arabian government, that sovereign governments had the right and even the duty to alter these contracts with private companies if and when circumstances changed and the concessions no longer served the needs of their citizens but operated against them. This is a thesis that tends to incense the concessionaire companies; there had been some elaborate legal attacks upon it, tinged with rancour, from some of their spokesmen. Mr. Fraser, characteristically, spoke in human rather than legal terms: and his hearers were aware that in Kuwait the working relationship is possibly the best in the Middle East. He ended by saying, 'If we have a point to raise, we go to the government. If the government has a point to raise, it comes to us. We talk it over as friends, and settle it as friends. It is only then that we call in the lawyers and bring out the agreement.'

About two months later, it is said, an American visitor was talking with Shaikh Jabir, whose responsibility for financial affairs in the government of Kuwait covered the affairs of petroleum. She was asking about the functions of the new Kuwait National Petroleum Company, which had been financed with government and private Kuwaiti money to take over, as a beginning, the distribution of oil products inside this small and fantastically rich little country. Shaikh Jabir mentioned that the new KNPC might possibly take up the 20 per

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