The story of the oil industry in Latin America in recent years has been one of both highs and lows, with positive news coming out of countries such as Brazil and Colombia, and less encouraging developments taking place in Mexico and Venezuela. At the same time, we have witnessed a number of important and intriguing changes in the regulatory and contractual frameworks for foreign participation and investment across the region. Whereas some countries have chosen to remain open to the possibility of (or even expand the opportunities for) foreign involvement, a growing trend has been towards a resurgence of oil nationalism and the stifling of opportunities for international oil companies (IOCs).
In July of 2009, the Latin American Program and its institutes on Brazil and Mexico, along with the Global Energy Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. convened four experts from the region to talk about their perspectives on the potential for reform in four leading oil producing nations: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. At a pivotal moment in the relationship between state-owned national oil companies (NOCs), the IOCs and broader oil services sector, it is clear that there is a need for an objective appraisal of the prospects for further change in the regulatory environment.