Ron Kirk, Senior Of Counsel, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
How can the Dallas oil and gas sector benefit from a legal adviser with a Washington background?
I can't think of an energy company today that's not international. Mid-cap sized companies are all very interested in expanding their base of operations in markets around the world. We're in a unique position to work with leaders in most of the major and emerging markets - China, India, Africa, Brazil, Russia and the Middle East.
Having spent four years as a U.S. trade representative and a member of the president's cabinet, working in the Senate, I understand how Washington works when it comes to policy matters. Helping companies navigate that regulatory structure and understand how energy policies are managed within the administration is a service I can provide. We had the responsibility of negotiating trade agreements. So, what I'm most excited about is working with these companies and helping them expand in foreign markets.
What's different about the business community in Dallas?
At one point, energy was the backbone, but it also forced the state to diversify. Now, we're as high tech as any other state in the country. Because of the development of important technology-Texas Instruments Inc. (Nasdaq: TXN)., for example - it now has a diverse business background that allows us to resist recessions, as opposed to Detroit, which is tied to the auto industry. At the time when I was mayor from 1995 to 2001, we were one of the largest cities in North America - but while other major cities are on a river and rely mostly on ports, Dallas sits in the middle of the U.S. we have a river that has some described more like a moist ditch. It's a self-made community.
What specific challenges do you anticipate energy companies facing in emerging markets?
Many of the emerging markets are in countries where the government is much more heavily involved in business. Their presence in Brazil, Vietnam and India is a fact of life and doing deals in those markets not only requires a substantial expertise in the subject matter, it also mandates having relationships and understanding of the culture. Helping them navigate how business is done in those markets is important. You have the largest oil finds off the coast of Brazil right now, and energy companies from China and Malaysia are going in to develop them.
Dallas mid-market companies are also going in, either independently or through joint ventures, to develop these properties which are state owned. Half of the growing economies in the world are in Africa - doing business in those markets is very different because while companies want to develop their resources, the countries want whatever business is done there to complement their own growth objectives. Meeting with and negotiating with counterparts among the BRIC countries has given me a unique insight on how to develop in those markets.
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