Opening address to the 155th (Extraordinary) Meeting of the OPEC Conference

No 12/2009
Luanda, Angola
22 Dec 2009

by HE Eng José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos, Minister of Petroleum of Angola and President of the Conference.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Luanda for the 155th Meeting of the Conference.

This is the first time that Angola has had the privilege of hosting the OPEC Conference and we are honoured to have you here in our country, and hope that your visit will be an enjoyable one.

Angola will soon mark its third anniversary as a Member of OPEC. This has come at an important time for our country, as we seek to develop our economy and improve the living standards of our people. The petroleum sector, which accounts for about 95 per cent of our total export revenue, is central to this process. Clearly, with its large petroleum resources Angola has an important part to play in the OPEC family, and membership has opened new doors for us in the international oil market.

In the past, we attended OPEC meetings as an observer. Today, as a Member, we are hosting an OPEC meeting. And so I am especially pleased to welcome the observers from other oil-producing countries. Many of you have travelled a long way to join us in Luanda. Therefore let us welcome: His Excellency Dr. Abdul Hussain Ali Mirza, the Minister of Oil and Gas Affairs of Bahrain; Engineer Shamel Hamdy, First Under Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum of Egypt; His Excellency Dr. Darwin Zahedy Saleh, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia; and His Excellency Dr. Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Rumhi, the Minister of Petroleum and Gas of Oman.

In our meeting today, we shall review the latest situation in the oil market. When we last met in Vienna in September, we noted signs of economic recovery. However, there were valid concerns regarding the size and pace of this recovery and its effect on the oil market. We also saw how crude oil prices had continued to improve from the lows experienced late last year, even though the market was still very volatile.

Since then, the economic recovery has gathered pace. More OECD countries are coming out of recession and growth is accelerating in emerging markets, especially in Asia. However, doubts remain about the dynamics of the recovery. This is not helped by continued uncertainty in the financial sector and worries regarding growth momentum on the back of still-rising unemployment and fears that stimulus measures may come to an end too soon. The weak, fluctuating dollar is adding to the uncertainty.

Turning to oil demand, there is a mixed picture in the market. Demand growth in the emerging economies is improving, but the OECD remains in negative territory. The market continues to be well supplied with crude and inventories are at high levels. Prices have moved up to more comfortable levels. This is good news for investment in production capacity and future supply. Some postponed projects have already been started up again in our Member Countries.

However, the fragility remains in the market and we should not forget the detrimental volatility we experienced last year. This is one of the issues we must again address at today’s meeting. For our part, we will continue our efforts to restore stability and balance to the market, in the interests of producers and consumers alike.

Yet we must stress once again that it is not only OPEC that should be taking measures to balance the market. All OPEC and Non-OPEC producers should be involved in this process. They all benefit; therefore, they should all contribute. It is very hard on our Member Countries when they make sacrifices to cut back on output for the common good, only to find that other producers are stepping in to fill the gap. History has taught us that such independent actions can eventually damage the market. All parties then suffer, and the effects can quickly spread across the world economy.

Instead, it is far better to take a cooperative approach towards meeting the many challenges facing the oil market. This is especially the case as the world economy recovers and oil demand starts to grow again.

Some participants in today’s meeting have travelled here directly from the climate change talks in Copenhagen. They have seen how important it is for the interests of the oil industry to be properly represented in these negotiations. We can only do that through dialogue and cooperation. This will help oil keep its rightful place in the energy mix in a cleaner, safer and more equitable world.

Excellencies,

Before we begin our deliberations, it is my pleasure to invite the Heads of Delegation of Non-OPEC Countries present with us here today to give us their remarks.

Thank you, Excellencies, for those encouraging remarks. As I said earlier, the task of stabilizing the oil market requires the contribution of all of us.

Thank you for your attention.