Opening address to the 156th Meeting of the OPEC Conference

No 1/2010
Vienna, Austria
17 Mar 2010

by HE Germánico Pinto, Minister of Non-Renewable Natural Resources of Ecuador and President of the Conference

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the first OPEC Conference at our new headquarters.

It is also a privilege for my country Ecuador to hold the post of OPEC President at such a special time, since 2010 is also the year of OPEC’s Golden Anniversary.  This is all happening just two years after Ecuador rejoined the OPEC family.

Allow me to take this opportunity to express, on behalf of the OPEC Members, our deepest condolences and solidarity with the governments and people of Haiti and Chile, which recently suffered devastating earthquakes that left countless victims and material damage.

After more than three decades on the edge of Vienna’s historic city centre, the OPEC Secretariat has now crossed the Danube Canal and set itself up in the heart of the Austrian capital.  I understand from some Staff Members working here that they already feel a stronger attachment than ever before to our host city.

This landmark event highlights a new chapter in OPEC’s history.  It is always nice to move forward, and the relocation of one’s place of work serves as a source of renewal and inspiration to all our lives.

A few hours from now, we shall be taking part in the opening ceremony for the new building. A special programme of events will mark the occasion.  We shall be honoured by the presence of the Austrian Foreign Minister, the Mayor of Vienna and the Heads of other Vienna-based international organizations, together with other distinguished guests.

Some of our special anniversary activities will be in evidence there too: the anniversary logo, the new Website and the commemorative stamps, for example.  Indeed, the Secretariat has been hard at work preparing for the anniversary.  Other attractions to come during the year include some special publications, youth competitions, cultural exhibitions in Vienna and Member Countries, as well as a high-level symposium.

Clearly, we intend to make this a memorable year for our Member Countries, for our Staff Members and for all those who believe in the vision, the integrity and the objectives of our Organization.  These were refined into three guiding themes at the Third Summit of OPEC Heads of State and Government in Riyadh in 2007: stability of global energy markets; energy for sustainable development; and energy and environment.  They provide us with a solid base upon which to carry out our activities in the oil industry.

The main challenges today concern market stability at a time of much uncertainty in the world economy.  While there has been an improvement in the oil market outlook in recent months, there is still a long way to go before we can feel at ease with the situation.  Developments in the world economy, which remains balanced on a knife-edge of uncertainty, will continue to have a direct impact on the outlook in the coming months.

The strength of the global economic recovery in 2010 remains uncertain and uneven.  The firmer growth is expected to occur in the non-OECD areas, but even this may be affected by government measures to address overheating emerging economies.  However, the recovery is far from self-sustaining in the major OECD countries and fears of double-dip recession remain a threat. The issue of exit strategies from the stimulus packages of a year ago and the right timing of adjustment is becoming a key factor in the recovery process.

Oil prices have held up since we last met in Angola in December.  The decision we took one year earlier, at the height of the financial and economic crisis in late-2008, has been widely credited with helping restore order and stability to the oil market.  Prices have remained within a range of around US $70–80 a barrel for our Reference Basket for five months.

This stability is, however, very fragile and requires all parties – OPEC and non-OPEC producers, as well as consumers – to play their role in ensuring that the stability is maintained and strengthened.  OPEC’s market stabilization measures, whilst successful to-date, need to be supported by appropriate action from all other producers.  There is a need for more consistency and greater predictability in global oil and, indeed, energy markets, allowing producers and consumers alike to have a clearer vision of the way ahead, but this can only be achieved through the pursuit of dialogue, at regional and global level – dialogue to which the Organization is firmly committed.

These are all issues that concern us as we enter today’s meeting.  They will also feature prominently in the 12th International Energy Forum in Mexico at the end of this month.  We shall be well represented there, both as an Organization and as individual Member Countries.  And we expect real progress to be made in meeting the challenges facing the industry both today and in the future.

Thank you for your attention.