World’s Rich Nations Jostle to Lead Globalization Clubhouse
The race to fill a role at the heart of world economic policy making is turning into a new battleground for the future of globalization.
Angel Gurria retires next year as Secretary General of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Washington is proposing U.S. President Donald Trump’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Christopher Liddell, as a successor.
The OECD acts like an auditor for globalization, shaping policies and setting standards in areas from taxation to trade and education. It’s currently running contentious negotiations over digital taxes that are on the brink of imploding into a transatlantic trade war. Liddell faces competition from European candidates on the other side of that issue, including former EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom.
Member countries have until Nov. 1 to put forward a candidate. On Wednesday, Switzerland nominated Blackrock’s Philipp Hildebrand, a former head of the country’s central bank.
“This is the most important multilateral organization that most people have never heard of,” said Daniel F. Runde, Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The OECD sets the Marquess of Queensberry rules of globalization,” he said, referring to the standards of modern boxing.
The organization was formally established in 1961 when the U.S. and Canada joined what was originally a European group running the Marshall Plan after World War II. While still majority European, it’s grown to become a global forum.
Under Gurria’s 15-year stewardship, it expanded further and took on a more pro-active role, notably leading a crackdown on tax havens after the financial crisis and working more closely with large non-members China and India.
“Gurria has been the artisan of developing the OECD,” said Francoise Nicolas, a senior research fellow at the French institute for international relations. “When he arrived there it didn’t have the same aura; it was a mysterious, fusty place.”
John Llewelyn, who worked in various positions at the OECD for nearly 20 years, says key to the role is a careful balance between pushing member states and preserving the organization’s analytic neutrality.
“It’s not an easy job to fill because you really do want to be an intellectual leader to a certain extent, but the secretariat has to be like the pilot fish with the whale: in front but not too much in front,” Llewelyn said.
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