Opening address to the 121st Meeting of the OPEC Conference

No 9/2002
Osaka, Japan
19 Sep 2002

by His Excellency Dr Rilwanu Lukman, President of the Conference and Presidential Adviser on Petroleum and Energy, Nigeria

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to Osaka, Japan, for the 121st Meeting of the OPEC Conference. This is the first time the OPEC Conference has met in Japan and has been able to enjoy the hospitality of our esteemed hosts. Let me, therefore, on behalf of Your Excellencies, thank the Government of Japan, Prefecture of Osaka and City of Osaka for their gracious consent to our request to hold this Meeting here, and for the warmth of the hospitality that has been provided.

I should like to welcome to this Meeting His Excellency Rafael Ramirez, who is attending the OPEC Conference for the first time as Head of his country’s Delegation. As you know, he has replaced OPEC’s new Secretary General, His Excellency Dr Alvaro Silva Calderón, as Venezuela’s Minister of Energy and Mines. We wish both these distinguished gentlemen every success in their new posts.

We have been greatly saddened to learn of the passing away of a former Head of the Indonesian Delegation, His Excellency Ida Bagus Sudjana. He was Indonesia’s Minister of Mines and Energy from 1993 to 1998, during which time he served two six month terms as President of the OPEC Conference, in 1994–95 and 1997–98. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

We are holding this Meeting of the OPEC Conference in Osaka, so that it occurs in the run-up to the three-day Eighth International Energy Forum. We shall be actively involved in this meeting, when it gets underway in this fine city on Saturday. We attach a great deal of importance to producer-consumer dialogue, as epitomised by the International Energy Forum, which has gone from strength to strength, in terms of participation and commitment, since the inaugural meeting was held in Paris in 1991. This year’s event is co-hosted by an OPEC Member Country, the United Arab Emirates, together with Italy, and promises to build on the progress made at the Seventh Forum in Riyadh two years ago.

Indeed, we are in the middle of a two-month period of landmark international meetings, whose purpose is to tackle pressing issues of momentous proportions affecting mankind, as we settle into the 21st century. The World Summit on Sustainable Development, which took place two-to-three weeks ago in Johannesburg, is still fresh in our minds. In putting sustainable development at the top of the international agenda, the summit enhanced global awareness of the chronic poverty and deprivation that exists in many developing countries today, and underlined the crucial need for energy security as these countries seek to overcome these fundamental problems. The related issue of corporate social responsibility in the oil industry at the dawn of the new century was debated at the 17th World Petroleum Congress, which was held at around the same time in Rio de Janeiro; OPEC’s Member Countries were well represented in the accompanying exhibition. Interestingly, the 18th Congress will be the first to be held in the African continent, in Johannesburg in 2005. In one month’s time, the spotlight shifts to New Delhi, which is hosting the Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This will witness a further advancement of the process that began with the first “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro ten years ago, and which established the concept of a cleaner, safer and more environmentally friendly world as one of the global priorities of the day.

OPEC, for its part, welcomes any form of dialogue which addresses the crucial issues facing mankind today, in particular where it concerns energy security and the developing world. OPEC is committed to energy security. This is enshrined in the OPEC Statute, which dates from the 1960s. It refers explicitly to the “necessity of securing … an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations.” Our commitment to easing the plight of poorer nations has been a prominent feature of both Summits of OPEC Heads of State and Government — in Algiers in 1975 and Caracas in the year 2000. Among our resolutions at the Caracas meeting was one “to emphasise that economic and social development and the eradication of poverty should be the overriding global priority.” The meeting in Algiers led to the establishment of the OPEC Fund for International Development in 1976, which has since committed well over US $6 billion in assistance to other developing countries. On top of this, OPEC aid extends to other global institutions, as well as occurring at an individual Member Country level.

Viewed in this light, it becomes clear that energy security extends to the poorest communities across the globe, communities which have had to rely, for far too long, on traditional forms of energy, which may be dirty, polluting, inefficient and health-threatening. These communities have the same right as consumers in richer parts of the world to cleaner, more efficient forms of energy, which will support them on the path to sustainable development and help eradicate their chronic levels of poverty. We are, therefore, seeking to create a world where energy security rides hand-in-hand with the broad requirements for sustained economic growth, environmental harmony and social welfare.

We are playing our part to the full in ensuring order and stability — and hence security — in the international oil market. As a direct result of OPEC’s actions, supported by some leading non-OPEC producers, there is now a high level of security in the oil market. It is, indeed, with much pleasure that we greet distinguished officials from three non-OPEC oil-producing nations, who are here as observers. They come from Mexico, Oman and Russia.

There has been a fair degree of price stability since our last Meeting, with the weekly average lying in the range of around US $25 per barrel and $27/b. This is well inside OPEC’s price band of $22–28/b, reminding us once again of the realistic nature of this market-stabilising mechanism. It is, therefore, about time that people stopped scaremongering about crude oil prices going through the roof and settling there. We have made it clear repeatedly, through both our words and our actions, that we will not allow this to happen.

We cannot, of course, cover every contingency in the market. We are not miracle-workers! Shocks can occur at any time, as we all know; but many of these shocks are caused by factors which have nothing to do with upstream supply — such as accidents, unseasonal weather or downstream bottlenecks. Very often, aided by nervousness and speculation, they result in extreme price movements, which defy market fundamentals. However, these days, there is the capability of finding a timely solution to most crises. This is mainly due to the collective will of producers to ensure that effective remedial action is taken when the price structure comes under threat, and through use of the price-band mechanism.

At today’s Meeting, we shall review the current state of the international oil market; this will be in the context both of its performance since our last Conference in Vienna in June and of the outlook over the next 6–12 months, particularly with the onset of the Northern Hemisphere winter. We shall assess, among other things, the prospects for the world economy, the strength of the dollar and the current state of international tensions. We shall then decide on whether there is a need to revise our production agreement.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Since time is short, I shall conclude these opening remarks by saying that, while the near-term market outlook will obviously feature high on the agenda at this Meeting, we shall, at the same time, prepare ourselves to participate fully in the Eighth International Energy Forum, since we attach great importance to producer-consumer dialogue. Effective dialogue is essential, if we are to create a global energy industry that is fully compatible with sustainable development and the eradication of the poverty and starvation that has such a devastating effect on much of the world today.

Thank you for your attention.