GENEVA, July 31 (Reuters) - Gabon has told the World Trade Organization (WTO)that it will hold a licensing round for offshore oil blocks later this year, and that it will bring in new transparency requirements for its natural resources sector.
In a confidential document circulated during a two-day trade policy review that ended on Wednesday, Gabon said it was adopting a new hydrocarbon code which would provide a basis for the new bid round.
Gabon, a former OPEC member, has the seventh biggest oil reserves in Africa and produces about 240,000 barrels per day, providing about 80 percent of its oil export earnings.
"This code will provide a real framework for activities related to petroleum in our sedimentary basin, as well as the valuation of undeveloped blocks, notably in the deep and very deep offshore which are to be awarded by way of tender before the end of 2013," the document said.
The document, a list of written questions and answers on trade policies, was part of the WTO's review of five member countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC), which includes Gabon.
Gabon's oil minister told Reuters in November 2012 that the West African country would launch a deepwater licensing round in June, provided it could put new investor-friendly rules in place.
It had already delayed and then cancelled licensing rounds for ultra-deep offshore blocks in 2010, citing drilling costs and environmental concerns after BP's massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
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