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Opening address to the 177th Meeting of the OPEC Conference

Prensa OPEP | 6 de diciembre 2019

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

Good afternoon.

In the name of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and on behalf of the Heads of Delegation

and the OPEC Secretariat, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to Vienna for the 177th Meeting of the OPEC Conference.

We convene at a time of sadness for the OPEC Family, as one of the Organization’s and the petroleum industry’s most esteemed and learned leaders, Dr. Fadhil J. Chalabi, passed away earlier this week. Dr. Chalabi served OPEC with great distinction for more than a decade, including as Deputy Secretary General of the Organization from 1978-89 and also as Acting Secretary General from 1983-88. The OPEC Conference extends its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Dr. Chalabi.

We will now pause for a minute’s silence to remember Dr. Chalabi.

May he rest in peace.

I would also like to take this opportunity to offer a very warm welcome to a number of Ministers who have assumed their position since the last OPEC Conference held on the 1st of July 2019.

This is certainly not the first time His Royal Highness, Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Salman, has attended an OPEC Conference; but it is the first time he has done so in his capacity as Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia.

Over the past 32 years, there are very few successful initiatives undertaken by this Organization that do not bear Prince Abdul Aziz’s fingerprints. In my own country, we recall with fondness and admiration His Royal Highness’s role as Chairman of the Committee drafting of the Solemn Declaration at the Second OPEC Summit which took place in Caracas, Venezuela on 27th and 28th September 2000.

He has long been a champion of producer-consumer dialogue and he played a pivotal role in the establishment of the International Energy Forum in Riyadh. Of course, we are all well aware of how his deft and expert touch aided the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ process. Therefore, it is a tremendous honour for me to welcome him officially to the OPEC Conference.

A warm welcome is also extended to HE Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, who is also an oil industry veteran and will no doubt be a tremendous asset to the Conference.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks for the highly beneficial efforts of your predecessors, who contributed greatly to our previous successes.

HE Khalid Al-Falih of Saudi Arabia was instrumental in securing the Algiers Accord, the Vienna Agreement, the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ and, of course, the ‘Charter of Cooperation.’ He did an outstanding job as President of the OPEC Conference in 2017 and Chairman of the JMMC in 2018 and the first half of 2019. The OPEC Family owes him a great debt of gratitude.

We are also extremely grateful to HE Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu of Nigeria, who tirelessly championed our common endeavours.

We wish them all every success for the future.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Three years ago, the oil market was in a perilous condition. This situation came about as a result of the fact that from 2014 to 2016, world oil supply grew by 5.8 mb/d, heavily outpacing world oil demand growth, which increased by 4.3 mb/d.

By July 2016, the OECD commercial stock overhang reached a record high of about 403 mb over the five-year industry average. The OPEC Reference Basket price fell by an extraordinary 80% between June 2014 and January 2016. Several emerging markets were on the verge of recession.

We have been on a long and eventful journey since those dark days. Aware of its responsibility to consumers and producers, OPEC reached out to our non-OPEC partners and the results have been unprecedented.

From the Algiers Meeting on 28 September 2016, to the adoption of the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ on 10 December 2016, to the establishing of the OPEC and non-OPEC Ministerial Meetings, the convening of 35 meetings of the Joint Technical Committee, as well as 17 meetings of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee, and the adoption of the ‘Charter of Cooperation’ on 2 July 2019. In a short period of time we have achieved milestone after milestone.

It has been a journey characterised by success, comradery and friendship between nations. The results speak for themselves, including the informed and judicial decision in July 2019 to extend our production adjustments to the end of March 2020. Together we made history!

However, we continue to face various challenges and critical uncertainties that are beyond the capacity of any one stakeholder to influence. There have been trade related issues, geopolitics and disruptions to security of supply.

It is also regrettable when oil is weaponized to attack the economy of a sovereign nation, impinging on the welfare and development of people. Not only is this contrary to the spirit and letter of international law; it is immoral when undertaken in the pursuit of regional or global dominance. Unfortunately, my own country has first-hand experience of such nefarious practices. We vehemently oppose the oil market being used in this manner. However, there can be no doubt that the resilience of the Venezuelan people will hold firm and we will overcome the hostile acts being perpetrated against us.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

One of most important issues affecting the industry is the climate challenge. We note that COP 25 is currently taking place in Madrid and OPEC Member Countries are actively engaged with the UNFCCC in these meetings. Allow me to reiterate our strong support for the Paris Agreement, and the oil industry playing a proactive role in contributing to a sustainable future, particularly through technological innovation aimed at reducing emissions.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Looking forward to 2020, there are many grounds for optimism. The countries participating in the ‘Declaration of Cooperation’ have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment, resilience and dedication in pursuing sustainable oil market stability.

Global economic growth is expected to be a healthy 3% for 2020. Total global oil demand is forecast to exceed 100 mb/d for the first time on an annual basis in 2020 and this could receive a further boost if trade-related issues are resolved.

On a personal note, this is the final Conference under the Venezuelan Presidency for 2019.

During this year, Venezuela has held the presidency of two major organizations: the OPEC Conference and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which held its 5th Summit of Heads of State and Government last week in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. This evidently underlines my country’s abiding commitment to international cooperation and respect among nations.

It has been a distinct honour and privilege to serve in this capacity. Next year, OPEC will celebrate its 60-year anniversary. As a Founder Member, Venezuela is proud of the role we played in birthing the Organization and in the subsequent six decades.

On behalf of my country, allow me to offer our full and unequivocal support for the noble goals that motivate every action that OPEC undertakes. Our commitment in this regard can best be encapsulated in the words of the great Venezuelan, our esteemed former President of Venezuela, HE Hugo Chávez Frías,

“We want to be brothers and sisters. We want respect and equality. Simon Bolivar, our father, said a balanced world - a universe - a balanced universe in order to have peace and development.”

I wish my successor, HE Mohamed Arkab, Algeria’s Minister of Energy, the best of good luck for 2020.

Thank you for your kind attention and Viva la OPEC!