Japan: Japan LNG Import Contracts – The JFTC Reports

Last Updated: 17 July 2017
Article by   Orrick and Minako Wakabayashi

The Japanese Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) on June 28, 2017 issued its much-anticipated report into the state of the market for contracted long term LNG supplies into Japan‎ (available here). The report made a number of key observations.

日本の公正取引委員会(「公取」)は、平成29年6月28日、日本における長期のLNG(液化天然ガス)供給契約にかかる取引実態に関して待望の調査報告書(こちらで閲覧できます。)を公表しました。本報告書には、多くの重要な所見が含まれています。

The following contract provisions and behaviours could, prima facie, be in violation of the Antimonopoly Act (Unfair Trade Practices: Trading on Restrictive Terms) because of the potential for foreclosure of the Japanese gas market:

以下の契約条項や行為は、日本のガス市場に閉鎖効果を生じさせるおそれがあることから、原則として、独占禁止法上問題(不公正な取引方法:拘束条件付取引)となるおそれがあります。

Destination clauses and diversion conditions - with a recognition that this will particularly be the case for fixed-term FOB contracts; for DES contracts a destination clause intended to define a delivery point might not be problematic, nor would be the necessity for a seller’s consent to diversion unless the seller unreasonably refuses its consent or, on an operational or contractual basis, requests competition-restraining requirements for a diversion. Unreasonable refusals by sellers of diversion requests, where the contract does not include a destination clause, could also be caught.

仕向地条項及び仕向地変更条件 ‐ これは、特にFOB条件の期間契約で問題となると認識されています。DES条件の契約では、引渡地点を定めるために仕向地条項を規定することは問題となるものではなく、仕向地変更について売主の同意を必要とすることも問題となりませんが、売主が仕向地の変更について不合理に同意することを拒否したり、運用上又は契約上、仕向地の変更をするのに競争制限的な条件を要請したりする場合は問題となるおそれがあります。また、契約に仕向地条項が規定されていない場合、売主が買主からの仕向地変更要請を不合理に拒否することも、独占禁止法上問題となるおそれがあります。

Profit sharing mechanisms as a condition of diversion– these clauses under fixed-term LNG contracts could prevent Japanese users from reselling LNG to other users if they have the effect of decreasing the resale profit for the buyer and of depriving users access to the buyer’s resale, depending on the calculation methods and the distribution ratios of resale profit used.  This is particularly so for FOB contracts; for DES contracts it might not be unreasonable for a seller to require compensation from a buyer in exchange for giving consent to a diversion, unless this led to unreasonable profit sharing in favour of a seller.

仕向地変更の条件としての利益分配の仕組み ‐ 利益分配条項がLNGの期間契約に規定されている場合において、売主に分配する再販売利益の算定方法及び分配割合に応じて、買主の再販売利益が減少し、需要者が買主から再販売を受ける機会を奪うことになる場合には、利益分配条項は、日本の需要者が他の需要者にLNGを再販売することを制限するものとなる場合があります。これは、特にFOB条件の取引について該当します。DES条件の取引については、売主が仕向地の変更に同意するのと引換えに買主に代償を求めることは、それが売主に有利となる不合理な益利分配につながらない限り、必ずしも合理性がないとはいえません。

Take or pay clauses - when a seller’s bargaining position is superior to that of a buyer and the seller unilaterally imposes take or pay clauses and strict minimum purchase obligations without sufficient negotiation with the buyer, particularly where the seller has already received a sufficient return for initial investment and does not need the take or pay commitment to reimburse its sunk capital costs. 

Take or Pay 条項 ‐ 売主の取引上の地位が買主に対して優越している場合において、売主が買主と十分に協議することなく、一方的に Take or Pay 条項を課し、厳格な引取義務数量を定めた場合、とりわけ、売主が既に十分な初期投資の回収をなし、その回収不能資本コストを償還するための Take or Pay 条項による約束を受ける必要がないときは、本条項は、独占禁止法上問題となるおそれがあります。

The JFTC's report concludes with the suggestion that (1) when LNG sellers conclude a new contract or revise a contract after its expiration then the contract must be careful not to apply competition-restraining clauses nor business practices which lead to restrictions on resale; and (2) for existing contracts LNG sellers should also review them for competition-restraining business practices which lead to restrictions on resale.  The JFTC also warns that it will keep monitoring the LNG market and will take strict actions against any violations.

公取の報告書は、(1)LNG の売主において、新規契約締結時や契約期間満了後の更新時において、再販売の制限等につながる競争制限的な条項や取引慣行を定めないよう注意しなければならないこと、及び(2)既存契約においても、LNG の売主は、再販売の制限等につながる競争制限的な取引慣行について見直さなければならないことを提言して締めくくられています。また、公取としても、引き続き、LNGに関する取引の動向を注視していくとともに、独占禁止法の違反に対して厳正に対処していくことを警告しています。

The JFTC’s report has started a subtle but seismic shift in the landscape for contract terms for LNG supplies into Japan.  What the report says will set a level of expectation for Japanese LNG buyers that changes to future contracting behaviours from LNG sellers‎, and even changes to existing contract terms, are expected.   Sellers of LNG into Japan would be wise to recognise the implications of the JFTC's report and should think carefully about what sort of contract workarounds might now be necessary if they want to maintain their current and prospective interests in the world's largest LNG import market.

公取の報告書によって、日本への LNG 供給に関する契約条件について、状況はわずかですが確実に変わり始めました。報告書で述べられていることは、契約に関する LNG 売主の今後の態度を変え、さらには既存の契約条件さえも変えることとなる日本の LNG 買主の期待水準を設定するものとなると思われます。日本に LNG を売却する売主にとって、公取の報告書によって生じるであろう影響を認識することが賢明であり、世界最大の LNG 輸入市場において現在及び将来の利益を維持したいならば、今、どういった契約についての対応策が必要とされるのか、慎重に検討しなければなりません。

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