PARIS, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The International Energy Agency and six emerging economies including China and India agreed to pursue stronger cooperation, the IEA said on Wednesday in a bid to strengthen ties with non-members whose share in global oil demand has grown rapidly.
The initiative to form an "association" between the West's energy watchdog, combining 28 developed economies, and non-members is aimed at boosting ties on energy security, data sharing and energy market analysis, the Paris-based group said.
China, the world's top energy consumer, India, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia have signed the joint declaration, a non-legally binding agreement.
As oil demand growth has shifted from developed to emerging countries over the past decade, the IEA has looked to non-members to preserve its importance as an international agency.
"Energy governance is an increasingly important element of the global energy economy," Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA's executive director said at a news conference following the agency's biannual ministerial meeting in Paris.
"The changing energy economy requires extending our strengths beyond our membership," she said.
Sources told Reuters earlier this year the initiative included a proposal that non-member countries be allowed to sit in meetings of the IEA governing board to jointly discuss issues such as strategic stock releases in response to supply problems.
Asked if the new associated countries will be able to be present at the stock releases meeting, the IEA director told Reuters: "We are not that far, they will certainly be present at a number of our standing committee meetings, next year in 2014 we are going to work out the details."
"But when there is a very serious disruption of supply, there will certainly be consulting of other countries, definitely," she said on the sidelines of the conference.
The IEA includes only members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, but not all OECD members are in the IEA. Estonia cleared the last hurdle on Wednesday to become the agency's 29th member.
IEA members account for under half of the world's energy consumption. China alone has jumped from accounting for under 5 percent of total global oil demand in 1994 to nearly 12 percent in 2013.
In recent years, the accuracy of IEA data and forecasts, published in closely watched monthly reports, has come under internal and external scrutiny as the focus on oil demand shifted away from IEA members.
While members of the developed economies regularly provide data on energy imports and exports, non-members report on a voluntary basis which often lacks transparency and accuracy.
"The availability of data is not always timely, not always as accurate that we would like it to be. But it's not only for China, it's for many other countries," Van der Hoeven said.
The shale gas revolution in the United States, which will help the world's largest economy surpass Saudi as the top oil producer in 2015, was also discussed at the IEA meeting.
Asked if ample shale gas reserves in the United States would reduce the need for strategic oil stock reserves, the main intervention tool of the IEA since its creation following the 1973 oil shock, Van der Hoeven said:
"They are completely two different things. What we expect is that the United States will not only need the light, tight oil but also the heavier oil, and that something they will still need to import," she told Reuters. (Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by David Evans)