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Dialogues within the Dialogue

5 April 2005

Kuwait City, Kuwait

Two days after tomorrow, it will be exactly one year since the First EuroGulf Workshop was held in Riyadh. It was hosted by a newly established International Energy Forum Secretariat. It was the first external co-operative activity that we engaged in. I underscored then, from my IEF global energy dialogue perspective, the importance that must be attached also to inter-regional dialogue, such as yours between the European Union and the Gulf Co-operation Council, as part of the global dialogue. 

I am happy to be back with you a year later. The International Energy Forum Secretariat is associated with this concluding conference at which the EuroGulf Project will present its work and policy recommendations. Your findings and recommendations can feed into and strengthen also the global dialogue endeavour. Not least, as input to our preparations for the next IEF Ministerial. 

Let me start by highlighting some of the shared perspectives that emerged from the 9th IEF Ministerial that took place in Amsterdam in May last year. I will add some on-going activity, in particular our co-ordination of the Joint Oil Data Initiative and conclude by elaborating a little on how I see inter-regional dialogue fit into the global one at political level in the IEF.

IEF shared perspectives

Fifty-nine countries and eleven international organisations participated at the Amsterdam Ministerial. Never before had so many energy ministers gathered in any one place at any one time. I expect even more Ministers to meet when Qatar hosts the 10th IEF in Doha in April next year. 

The focus of the producer-consumer dialogue at political level in the IEF is on energy security and the links between energy, environment and economic development. IEF Ministerials are unique in their global participation and perspective. They gather not only ministers of IEA and OPEC countries, but also ministers of important countries outside these two main producer and consumer organisations; not least China, India and Russia with their increasing impact on the global energy scenario. In the IEF, ministers meet for informal dialogue. They look for consensus-oriented approaches to energy challenges ahead across traditional political, economic and energy policy dividing lines. 

At the Amsterdam IEF, Ministers voiced concern about the high oil prices. They agreed that economic recovery worldwide, especially in developing countries, would benefit from stable oil prices at a reasonable level. Both producer and consumer countries should take action to ensure sustainable price levels.

Ministers considered present oil and gas reserves sufficient to meet the world's increasing energy needs, provided that necessary investments are made in time. Unhindered access to capital, energy technology and markets would promote the development of production, transit and transport capacity. The sovereign rights of states over their natural resources were reaffirmed. The commercial objectives of oil and gas companies were recognised.

Ministers echoed the strong message from CEOs of leading energy companies in the preceding International Energy Business Forum that stable and transparent economic, fiscal and legal frameworks need to be in place to attract sufficient foreign direct investment and other resources. Transparency also with respect to oil production and stocks was seen as important to that end. 

Ministers underscored the importance of investments in cleaner fossil fuels and of reducing the detrimental effects of growing energy use. The importance of developing alternative energy sources was stressed. Their vision was a smooth transition to a new energy era for the longer term, facilitated by the presence of still ample oil and gas reserves.

The importance of energy for sustainable development and follow-up of the Johannesburg Summit was also emphasized, especially bearing in mind the energy needs of a growing world population. 

Three pillars of IEFS activity

A cardinal task for the International Energy Forum Secretariat in Riyadh is to support host country Qatar, and co-hosts China and Italy, in preparing the next Ministerial. The host troika is convening in Rome on 11 April the first meeting of an Informal Support Group of some 25 countries and the IEA and OPEC Secretariats in addition to our own. The objective is to further develop and discuss themes for the next Ministerial. We are happy to have Kuwait now participating in the Support Group. These discussions will be chaired by Dr. Ramzi Salman, Adviser to the Minister of Energy and Industry of Qatar. He is also a session panelist later today - the session on enhancing the 'Efficiency and Transparency of the International Oil Markets' - a theme of on-going interest also to Ministers in the International Energy Forum. 

Our second pillar of activity is to help to ensure the continuity of the ministerial level energy dialogue by facilitating supportive meetings at regional, inter-regional and global level that can follow up IEF ministerials and feed relevantly into preparations for forthcoming ones. 

Our first such venture was hosting the first EuroGulf Workshop in Riyadh. We also held last year a joint workshop on the producer-consumer dialogue with representatives of industry in the Mediterranean Energy Organisation, OME, and one with Russian authorities in connection with the 4th Russia Oil and Gas Week. Later this month, Chatham House is convening a workshop on the producer-consumer dialogue in association with the IEF Secretariat in London. But not least, we are proud to have been part of the First Roundtable of Asian Ministers on Regional Co-operation in the Oil and Gas Economy that India's Petroleum Minister convened in New Delhi in January this year in association with the IEF Secretariat and with Kuwait as co-hosting country. 

The third pillar of Secretariat activity is to contribute to enhanced oil data collection and transparency. We hosted at our Riyadh headquarters in January an inter-organisational meeting of APEC, Eurostat, IEA, OLADE, OPEC and the UN, the six organizations that have pioneered and developed the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI). That Riyadh meeting marked the start of the Secretariat's more active co-ordinating role.

IEF Ministers recognise how important accurate and timely data are to reduce market volatility. They have endorsed the Secretariat assuming a co-ordinating role in this inter-organisational endeavour to improve the quality and transparency of international oil statistics. More than 90 countries, representing 95% of global supply and demand, are now submitting data. We are chairing a Review Committee that will assess the quality of the data and expect a public launch of the database later this year. May I invite you to visit our website for a monthly update on JODI, the co-ordination of which, with the full support of our partner organisations, is set to become a flagship of our activity. 

Intra- and inter-regional impulse

The global dialogue is definitely also about regional and inter-regional dialogue. Dialogues within the dialogue, so to speak. EuroGulf is one of these. 

In fact, we today see a trend towards closer intra- and inter-regional co-operation. This is natural in view of the fact that some things may be easier to operationalise and might get more detailed discussion on regional than global level, and can be a first step towards global solutions. Also, perspectives and immediate interests can vary between regions, however interdependent they are and interwoven by shared global interests. In fact, Ministers of several countries made specific proposals at the Amsterdam Ministerial for Secretariat facilitation of such regional and inter-regional dialogues as part of our activity leading up to the next full global Ministerial. 

I am confident that intra- and interregional dialogues will deepen and strengthen rather than weaken or divert global energy dialogue and co-operation. Regional energy economies are in inseparable from the global energy economy. The issues that dialogues such as EuroGulf are looking at are more or less the same that top the agenda of the global dialogue as well. The Secretariat can, in my view, serve as a useful catalyst link between regional and inter-regional dialogues and the global dialogue in the IEF with its global producer and consumer country participation. 

Another case in point is the Delhi Roundtable of Asian Ministers that I have just mentioned. It was the first time that the principal oil and gas importing countries in East and South Asia - India, China, Japan and South Korea - the principal oil and gas exporting countries of West Asia - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman gathered on a regional basis. 

An impressive gathering, indeed. These Ministers represent half of the World's population, the bulk of the World's remaining proven oil and gas reserves and, very importantly, the greater part of the surging global energy demand expected in the decades ahead. Already, the oil producing countries in West Asia send two out of every three barrels of their exports eastwards in Asia and the principal importing countries in the East get four out of every five barrels of their imported oil from West Asia. 

Ministers recognised that the Asian oil economy is integral to, and inseparable from, the global oil economy. They underscored the shared desire for market stability and that prices be sustained at levels which encourage Asian consumers to increase their purchases of Asian production on the one hand and encourage Asian producers to promote investments in oil and gas for Asian consumer destinations on the other. They exchanged views on the scope for improving Asian markets and underlined the importance of strategic storage and crisscross investments linking Asian consumers and producers closer together.

Such was the 'meeting of minds', that Ministers decided there and then to continue this new regional dialogue with follow up meetings in Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Kuwait. The IEF Secretariat was requested to facilitate the further process as an element in its global dialogue activity. Clearly, a new Asian energy identity has emerged than can have global impact. 

The Gulf centre stage

This timely EuroGulf Energy Forum coupled with the Delhi Roundtable of Ministers, where five GCC countries participated, must surely testify to the fact that the Gulf is centre stage in the energy world with something very important to offer of regional interest both eastwards in Asia and westwards to Europe. And next year, the Gulf will be centre stage also for the global energy dialogue when ministers meet in Doha for the 10th IEF. It is set to be the largest gathering of energy ministers in history. 

I wish you a successful EuroGulf Forum and am eager to learn from your presentations and discussions.