Bigger, more representative, and more critical than ever
A large part of USCIB’s value as a worldwide advocate for American business derives from its access to, and work with, key multilateral organizations. One of the most important of these is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based institution that now encompasses 34 democratic market economies.
The OECD coordinates economic policies and compares performance among North America, Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, as well as new members like Chile and Israel. Russia is applying for membership, and the organization works with major non-member economies like China and India through an “enhanced engagement” program. As the U.S. member of the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), USCIB and its members play a direct role in the organization’s work.
With its origins in the Marshall Plan following World War Two, the OECD celebrates its 5oth anniversary this year. On a beautiful spring evening in April, USCIB helped mark this milestone by organizing a high-level reception, hosted by the State Department in its prestigious Diplomatic Reception Rooms.
Within sight of the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, nearly 300 guests from business, government, labor and the diplomatic corps heard from Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría, U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh, and the chairmen of the OECD’s principle consultative groups – Charles Heeter of BIAC and Richard Trumka of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC). The gathering represented solid cross-sectoral support for the OECD. I capped off the remarks with a toast to the OECD’s next 50 years.
As Mr. Hormats noted in his remarks, the story of the Marshall Plan, and the OECD’s eventual creation, illustrates the importance of leadership and perseverance in international economic issues. After World War Two, President Truman recognized that his own unpopularity in the U.S. Congress might jeopardize the preeminently important goal of European reconstruction, and so he asked his secretary of state, General George Marshall, to lead this important initiative.
Even with General Marshal’s enormous prestige, it was not a given that the Congress would approve the package until the Soviets crushed an uprising in the occupied nation of Czechoslovakia, thereby making clear the potential costs of inaction.
Over the ensuing decades, European statesmen like Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann sought to strengthen the democracies of Western Europe, providing a beacon for the eventual liberation of Eastern and Central Europe from the Soviet yoke. Meanwhile, the OECD extended its vision to encompass nations from every region of the world, demonstrating how widely – indeed universally – held are the aspirations for freedom and betterment that originally bound its members together.
From the outset, consultative mechanisms for both business and labor have ensured that OECD policies are developed in close consultation with key economic actors and enjoyed broad support from the private sector. BIAC has grown along with the organization itself to encompass leading business and employers’ federations from all of the OECD nations, plus observer groups from key emerging markets and candidate countries.
A short list of American business priorities in the OECD includes: taxation, where the OECD plays a central role in coordinating tax policies among major hosts of American investment around the world; support for open markets, including the emerging issue of competitive neutrality for state-owned enterprises; the future of the Internet; and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are in the process of being updated and revised with strong business input. But the OECD’s work in fact permeates nearly all of USCIB’s policy activities.
In May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will co-chair this year’s OECD anniversary ministerial in Paris. We want to use the occasion of this important anniversary to remind all our members and friends of the guiding principles that brought the founders of the OECD together, and of the important work yet to be done. The OECD’s role is more critical than ever. Here’s to the next 50 years!
Other recent postings from Mr. Robinson: