OPEC International Seminar: Advocating oil market dialogue

OPEC Bulletin Commentary May 2015

On June 3, 2015, Austria’s famous Hofburg Palace will once again open its doors to OPEC’s International Seminar. The stately building, which dates back to the 13th century, will host what promises to be two days of intense and lively discussion on the global oil sector. It is a striking and most fitting venue. As the former imperial residence of the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Hofburg has been home to some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history. Today, part of the Palace forms the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria.

Throughout the annual calendar, the Hofburg also stages over 300 events — events, such as the OPEC Seminar. This will be the fourth time the Organization, which has had its Headquarters in the Austrian capital since 1965, has chosen to convene its International Seminar in the premises’ palatial conference centre, taking advantage of its unique and congenial atmosphere. Indeed, a prestige setting for an important event.

Of course, it is easy to draw parallels between the two. Both the Palace and OPEC are steeped in history, with many eventful years behind them — and surely many more to come. They are also both important institutions in Austria and in their own particular ways contribute greatly to the international standing of the country, whose capital is regularly ranked as the top city in the world for ‘livability’.

Customarily, the OPEC International Seminar offers decision-makers, experts and analysts the opportunity to pinpoint and examine the challenges facing the oil industry now and in the years ahead. High-ranking delegates typically include OPEC and non-OPEC oil and energy ministers, heads of major oil companies, international organizations and energy institutions, captains of industry, as well as renowned academics and, of course, the international media.

And after what has been a difficult 12 months for the majority of stakeholders associated with the international oil market, there will be a great deal for the Seminar’s 700 or so participants to discuss and digest.

Over the two days, participants will hear from some 30 prominent speakers, who will cover all aspects of the global petroleum sector and related issues. The Seminar has been divided into five sessions which will cover a range of topical subjects that will include global energy outlooks, oil market stability, production capacity and investment, technology and the environment, and prospects for the world economy.

Clearly, with so much uncertainty surrounding the international oil market today, high-level international energy fora such as the OPEC Seminar are essential for addressing the main issues and helping overcome the many challenges that exist. Striving for oil market equilibrium and limiting harmful price volatility have been central to OPEC’s cause since the Organization’s formation in 1960. And this overriding commitment to stability is why the Organization and its Member Countries have made repeated calls for cooperation among the principle energy industry stakeholders. OPEC remains convinced that only through established and regular dialogue can a better understanding of the market’s complex inner workings be reached and the requirements of its principle players identified.

There is tentative optimism right now that the global economy, which drives petroleum demand, is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. The situation is still fragile so it is important that this marginal improvement is carefully nurtured. And since everyone benefits from a strong economy, then it follows suit that everyone has a part to play in its well-being, including those attached to the petroleum sector.

The OPEC International Seminar is just one of the various vehicles by which the oil sector’s main stakeholders can congregate to discuss the market and determine the best way forward for the future. Another significant undertaking, which has made great strides over the years, is the International Energy Forum (IEF), which brings producers and consumers together. Under such umbrella initiatives and in openly discussing the industry’s most important issues, the various parties involved — the producers, the consumers, the oil companies and the investors — are not only able to narrow their differences, but importantly strive to pull together … in the same direction.

It might be a big ask of some stakeholders who have grown used to going it alone — but such action would surely make all the difference to oil’s future welfare.

OPEC Bulletin May 2015

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