REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

From recovery to sustained growth

Structural economic challenges and preparing for recovery were the dominant themes at this year’s Ministerial Council Meeting (27-28 May), under the chair of Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Fiscal challenges, jobs, green growth, innovation, development, trade and investment, and societal progress all figured on the agenda. These highlights are based on the full conclusions, which can be read at www.oecd.org/mcm2010

“A crucial task” is how ministers described fiscal consolidation, given that budget positions of most OECD countries had deteriorated as a result of the crisis. “Credible and transparent” plans were needed, ministers concluded, which should be implemented without jeopardising growth. This was particularly important for employment, another key concern at the meeting, and the need to avoid a “jobless” recovery. Ministers recognised the OECD’s “unique contribution” on employment in cooperation with organisations such as the International Labour Organisation. Jobs growth and other challenges, such as ageing and global imbalances, depend on structural reform, and ministers renewed their commitment to this field, while appreciating the “comparative advantage” of the OECD’s work on structural policies.

One potential source of growth, ministers agreed, was the green economy, to further development, while responding to environmental challenges. Innovation was important and so was trade, and ministers resolved “to ensure that measures taken to pursue green growth are consistent with our international trade obligations”. They welcomed OECD work on a green growth strategy, and looked forward to the delivery of a report in 2011. That report should be strongly linked to the Innovation Strategy, whose final report was delivered to the 2010 meeting. Ministers recognised that innovation was broad based, covering such issues as education, entrepreneurship and public research, and the report provided direction for further work.

Trade and investment are a traditional focus of attention at the annual ministerial meeting. This year, despite the crisis, ministers noted that protectionism had not spread “as widely as many had feared”. International coordination was one reason for this, but vigilance had to be maintained. Ministers supported efforts to bring the Doha round of trade negotiations to a close.

They also welcomed the formal launch of the update of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the role these played in contributing to more “responsible business conduct”. In this spirit, members, as well as Brazil, Estonia, Israel, the Russian Federation and Slovenia, endorsed a Declaration on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency in the Conduct of International Business and Finance issued at the meeting.

Global economic cooperation is key to economic growth and development, and ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, and to monitor international aid commitments. They recognised the urgent need for progress in areas such as building more effective tax systems in developing countries and fighting offshore tax evasion.

Progress is not just about growth of course, and members invited the OECD to develop proposals for further work on measuring progress in society more broadly.

Finally, they welcomed the OECD’s contribution to various international fora, such as the G20 and the G8, and encouraged the organisation to continue its quality work. RJC


*Note: In addition to Ministers from Member countries, Ministers from non-member economies were invited to attend the MCM, including the four candidate countries for accession to the OECD–Estonia, Israel, the Russian Federation, and Slovenia–and the five countries with which the OECD has a programme of enhanced engagement: Brazil, India, Indonesia, People’s Republic of China and South Africa. Ministers from Argentina and Hong Kong, China were invited as regular observers to the trade session. Several international organisations also attended the plenary session as observers: the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the Council of Europe, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO) , the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) were invited as experts.

The full Ministerial Conclusions, as well as the Declaration on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency in the Conduct of International Business and Finance, the Interim Report of the Green Growth Strategy and Ministerial Report on the OECD Innovation Strategy, are all available at www.oecd.org/mcm2010


©OECD Observer No 280, July 2010




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