I would like to thank Your Royal Highness [Crown Prince Abdullah] for your patronage of the Seventh International Energy Forum that has been convened in Riyadh, the Arab Cultural Capital for the year 2000. We hope that this forum will, through your patronage and support, and through the participation of more than fifty-five oil producing and consuming countries and organizations, give a great support to international dialogue in order to achieve stability in the oil market and growth in the world economy. I would also like to welcome all the participants to this forum wishing them a good stay in Saudi Arabia, and the forum success in achieving the objectives it has set for itself and sought to achieve in the last ten years.
Since our last forum in Capetown two years ago, developments in the energy market have highlighted the importance of continuity and consolidation of this dialogue to reach common understanding of the intricate energy issues. The world oil market has witnessed successive developments that were of major concern not only to producers, but also to consumers, governments and people. The fluctuations in crude oil prices, the supply and demand situation of certain products, taxation policies, inventory management in major consumption areas, let alone environmental specifications and restrictions, have restored to oil its status as a major source of energy. These issues have also highlighted the urgent need for dialogue between producing and consuming countries to reach acceptable formulas to ensure the stability of prices, the continuity of supplies and the transparency of demand.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is honored to host this forum along with Japan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands whose efforts have been of great significance in preparing for this forum, and in ensuring the remarkable attendance of oil producing and consuming countries, as well as regional and international organizations interested in energy issues.
We hope that meetings and dialogues that take place in this forum will contribute to the consolidation of efforts aimed at securing energy supplies at prices acceptable to both producers and consumers. We also hope that this forum will contribute to lessening the restrictions on energy trade exchange, whether these restrictions are commercial, fiscal, or environment.
In the coming days, we are going to discuss different topics related to world energy issues, such as world energy outlook, the relationship between energy, sustainable development and technology, and the restructuring of energy market. Experts in each of these subjects have written background papers to serve as bases for our discussions. We hope that this method, adopted for the first time in this conference, will widen the scope of our dialogue.
The developments that have taken place in the energy market, especially in the oil market in the last two years, have given rise to a state of concern about the future of oil prices, supply and demand. They have also shown the urgent need for detailed information about supply and demand in order to make an accurate assessment of the market and its future course and adopt suitable policies necessary for market stability. It is important in this context to enlarge the scope of cooperation to set up a global energy data base starting with data exchange among the various concerned world organizations, such as OPEC, and the International Energy Agency, and to hold periodical meetings to obtain timely and accurate information. The availability of such information is a necessary condition for market stability.
In the course of our dialogue on the outlook for global energy, we will review various aspects of the issue and views related to forecasts of economic growth, the size of energy resources and their efficient use, and the outlook for supply and demand. In respect to oil and gas, most forecasts indicate that the continuity of economic growth rates especially in developing countries will increase the demand for oil as long as there is no excessive taxation, environment policies, or efforts aimed at curbing this growth in the main areas of consumption. These forecasts also indicate that the increase in demand will be met by a limited number of countries mainly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In this regard, I would like to refer to what Your Royal Highness has stressed during the second OPEC summit in Caracas that the Kingdom is always prepared to provide oil supplies to the market out of its concern to ensure market stability and the healthy growth of demand for its principal resource ensuring no adverse effect on world economic growth potential.
Closely related to this is the relationship between energy markets, technology and development. Technological development has affected all aspects of human life and will substantially affect the availability of energy sources and uses. The remarkable technological development in exploring, producing, refining, and processing oil and gas during the last decade has affected the costs structures, and has helped as well to make available environmentally sound petroleum products at reasonable price. This development is expected to continue, which makes oil and gas of paramount importance to global energy balance for the coming decades. The cost of energy technologies and their adaptability to the environment and their acceptance by consumers will be the principle factors for the success of these technologies.
We cannot talk about energy in this forum without considering its relationship with sustainable development because there is an international conviction that the production and consumption of energy have to take into account the safety and development of the environment in order to satisfy the needs of the present generation while securing the right of future generations to a sound and healthy environment as well as to an adequate resources. In this context the phenomenon of climatic change and the international agreements and commitments related to it, will be a fertile field for dialogue. Just as we agree that it is important to set up a balanced environmental system, which takes into account the different levels of development between countries, we also urge the establishment of a balanced and free trading system. Both systems, we believe, can secure for oil and gas important roles in the future.
Since we cannot talk about energy issues without considering their market, the liberalization of the energy market and the restructuring of oil and gas industry and its effect on investment, production, and prices, as well as national policies will be one of the main areas of dialogue in the forum. The oil industry is experiencing a stage of restructuring represented by mergers between major companies. This has its impact on markets and on the relationship between companies including national oil companies. Also related is the restructuring of energy markets and their liberalization on the free flow of oil trade. There is no doubt that this forum provides a suitable opportunity for discussing these issues and reaching appropriate solutions.
These are some of the issues on which we will base our discussions in this forum both in the four plenary sessions, and the bilateral deliberations. While thanking you for your patronage of this important forum, I hope that it will serve as a turning point in the dialogue between energy producers and consumers, as well as a model to be followed in international cooperation and dialogue in other areas for the safety and growth of global economy and the well-being of humanity.