The Trump administration hosted a delegation from Qatar in Washington on Tuesday ahead of the State of the Union, with investing in U.S. energy infrastructure high on the list of topics, according to administration officials.
"We had the Qataris in today and they're in the process of opening and starting [liquefied natural gas] facilities that they are going to be the majority owner of down on the Texas-Louisiana border," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Fox News just hours before the president's address.
Perry's agency has the final say on the approval of natural gas exports from the U.S. into the global market, and President Trump has made exporting more U.S. energy a priority.
The U.S. is now a net producer of natural gas because of the shale oil and natural gas boom that has transformed the country into the world's leading fossil fuel producer.
Qatar is one of the only countries that can rival the U.S.'s natural gas production and export ambitions. Qatar, which is on a tiny peninsula in the Arabian Gulf, is the largest natural gas exporter in the world.
Perry said the global energy market is dynamic and things have changed in less than a decade, with the U.S. moving from being dependent on natural gas imports to becoming a net exporter.
An administration official confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the meetings with the Qatari delegation were administration-wide and led by Rex Tillerson's State Department. They included the Energy and Treasury departments. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also attended.
Leaders from the Gulf country highlighted in their meeting at Energy Department headquarters "that they are an active investor in the U.S. energy sector," said the official. "We believe that is good news."
The talks marked the first meeting of the U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue led by Tillerson and Qatar Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. Tillerson said the talks focused on trade and investment, security, counterterrorism, energy, and aviation.
"The United States believes enhanced trade will contribute positively to both our countries’ economic development, and create jobs for the American people and Qatari citizens while furthering the region’s security and stability," Tillerson said on Tuesday.
Trump has been asking Qatar to step up its anti-terrorism efforts in the wake of last year's blockade of the country led by Saudi Arabia.
Tillerson noted that a memorandum of understanding that the U.S. and Qatar signed in July has increased information sharing on terrorists and terrorist financiers.
"We have participated in counterterrorism technical training and taken steps to improve aviation security," Tillerson said. "We look forward to building on this foundation and implementing next steps."