Key OPEC oil ministers met Wednesday amid signs that some members, fearing loss of market share, may push to ease the production ceiling the 13-nation cartel agreed on in November to raise world prices.
The closed-door meeting adjourned after 4 1/2 hours with OPEC Secretary General Subroto saying, “We will try and finish our work tomorrow.”
Subroto said there would be no statement after today’s expected finish. “Do not expect us to come to you and say what has been decided,” he told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting.
Referring to the November decision to impose a production ceiling, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Sheik Ali al Khalifa al Sabah said shortly before the Wednesday meeting began, “There’s no decision that cannot be changed.”
He said the ministers will look at the demand for OPEC oil and then decide whether the 18.5 million barrels-a-day production ceiling for the first six months of 1989 should be increased.
“We’ll look at the figures, and then decide in June,” he said referring to the next scheduled full meeting of all OPEC’s oil ministers.
Wednesday’s meeting was attended by the eight ministers making up the influential pricing and production monitoring committee of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. They are from Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
They will make recommendations on any policy changes to the full OPEC meeting in June.
Subroto said, “We’re not going to make any decisions at (the current Vienna) meeting.”
Ecuador’s oil minister Diego Tamaris said the OPEC’s production ceiling was not even discussed at Wednesday’s meeting. No one, however, would say what was discussed.
It was “very good . . . lots of things were discussed,” said Hisham Nazer, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, without giving specifics.
In addition to the committee meeting Wednesday and today, Subroto said, “We will meet many times” between now and the full ministerial OPEC meeting in June.
Kuwait has much greater capacity than the 1 million barrels-a-day production it has been allocated under the November agreement and has been expected to push for an increase in its quota.
On Monday, Sheik Ali was reported as saying the overall ceiling should be raised by at least 1.5 million barrels-a-day in the second half of the year.