Opening address to the 154th (Ordinary) Meeting of the OPEC Conference

No 08/2009
Vienna, Austria
09 Sep 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 Vienna for the 154th Meeting of the Conference.

Let me begin by extending a special welcome to HE Germánico Pinto, the Minister of Mines and Petroleum of Ecuador, who is attending the Conference as Head of his country’s Delegation for the first time. In doing this, he has taken over the office of Alternate President of the Conference from his predecessor, HE Derlis Palacios Guerrero, whom we wish well in the future.

Words of welcome are similarly due to HE Masoud Mir-Kazemi, Minister of Petroleum of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who is also joining us for the first time and taking over the function of Chairman of the Ministerial Monitoring Sub-Committee from his predecessor, HE Gholamhossain Nozari. Please join me in thanking HE Nozari for his services to the Organization during his tenure.

I must inform you that the Delegation of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is headed by Mr Ali E M Saleh, General Manager of the Libyan National Oil Corporation. Similarly, kindly note that the Delegation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is headed by Dr Bernard Mommer, the country’s Governor for OPEC. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to both gentlemen.

Since we last met on 28 May, there has been a general strengthening of oil prices, within a range of around US $60 to $73 a barrel for our Reference Basket. This has provided welcome support for the industry’s investment plans, after the gloomy outlook for much of the past year.

However, we are concerned about the continuing price volatility, which, once again, is happening when there is plenty of crude in the market. Indeed, OECD crude oil stocks are about ten per cent above the five-year average level. Downstream too, distillate stocks are at very high levels globally.

There is little doubt that oil prices have become very sensitive to external economic signals, such as dollar exchange rate fluctuations, stock market movements and unemployment trends.

Two issues arise here.

The first is the degree to which high levels of speculation continue to influence oil prices. This issue is of great concern to OPEC and its Member Countries and, while some governments and other authorities have announced intentions to introduce regulatory guidelines, nothing concrete has yet materialized.

And the second issue concerns the timing, the extent and the pace of global economic recovery. The general economic outlook has, to some extent, improved since our Meeting in May. However, although OPEC’s Member Countries have participated in and benefited from this recovery, there are still great uncertainties as far as price behaviour is concerned, not only for the remainder of 2009, but also well into the second half of 2010.

As on so many occasions in the past, the challenges facing us at this Conference include reaching an agreement that will ensure sound supply/demand fundamentals, for the benefit of Member Countries and the world at large.

All in all, we are optimistic that the darkest days of financial turmoil and economic recession are behind us.

This should leave us with more time to address bigger issues facing mankind, notably the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and the environment.

In this light, the upcoming climate change negotiations in Copenhagen will also demand our attention at today’s Meeting. Oil producers must ensure that their interests are properly represented in the post-Kyoto agreement, as this is drawn up. There is much at stake here, for both present and future generations, in our Member Countries.

Excellencies, before I conclude my remarks, I should like to note that today’s Meeting will be the last one we shall hold in this building, which has housed OPEC’s Secretariat for more than 30 years. At the end of November 2009, the Secretariat will be relocated to Vienna’s First District, to open a new chapter in the life of our Organization. Significantly, this will happen just before the start of our 50th Anniversary year.

I should, therefore, like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of the Federal Republic of Austria and the authorities of the City of Vienna for their hospitality and support during these years. We look forward to a continuation of this excellent relationship at the new building. Words of commendation are also due to the many OPEC Secretariat Staff Members who have worked so hard to bring the new premises project to a fruitful conclusion and to make sure that these new premises are a suitably representative new home for the Organization.

Finally, I believe this is also a good time to thank those Staff Members — past and present — who have dedicated years of their lives to the development of OPEC from within our present building.

Let us now proceed with today’s Meeting.

Thank you.