The OECD and Japan: Marking 50 years of membership

Page 10 

Rintaro Tamaki ©OECD

One day I discovered a vast archive containing the work involved in attaining OECD membership.

The year 1964 holds golden memories for post-war Japan. I was still just a 10-year-old elementary school student, but I vividly recall how the streets were buzzing with the opening of the Shinkansen high-speed rail system (a good decade and a half before the French TGV) and the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics, and how our lives were steadily becoming enriched, not to mention the stench of exhaust fumes and the roar of the traffic. This was also the year in which post-war Japan was fully recognised as an important member of the international community. Japan became an IMF “Article 8” nation, hosted the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group for the first time, and also finally achieved accession to the OECD. However, at the time, Japan’s per capita GDP was only a quarter of that of the US, and two-thirds of Argentina’s, so one ought to consider that its admission to the OECD (as the first member country outside Europe and the US) was due to recognition of Japan as a partner worthy of good debate, rather than as a prosperous developed economy.

Twelve years later, in 1976, I joined the Ministry of Finance, and one day I discovered a vast file in an underground archive containing the work involved in attaining OECD membership. Conditions for membership had been met in various fields such as finance, taxation and aid, including OECD codes on freeing up capital movements. The efforts and enthusiasm of my predecessors seemed to leap off the page.

At that time, which was marked by the 1970s oil shock, the OECD was playing a central role in efforts to tackle the current account imbalance among developed countries. A typical example of this was the establishment (although eventually aborted) of the OECD Financial Support Fund, which was my first job at the Ministry of Finance, and the most important international financial conference was Working Party 3 (WP3) of the OECD Economic Policy Committee (EPC) which I had to prepare (see also article by Kumiharu Shigehara). I was on tenterhooks, as the materials for the WP3 conference had still not arrived by air mail as the day fast approached.

Through to the mid-1980s, I was fortunate enough to have two opportunities for secondment to the OECD secretariat: the first time as an economist in the Economics Department, and the second time in the department handling international taxation issues. The OECD was then a tight-knit world of 24 homogenous member countries, while non-member and developing countries were virtually out of view.

On returning to the OECD a quarter of a century later, I was surprised at the various changes that had occurred in the intervening years. Not only had the number of member countries risen from 24 to 34, but there was no longer the same distinction between member (essentially developed) countries and non-members(mainly emerging nations and developing nations) in the OECD policy debate. In fact, nowadays this latter group are referred to as partner countries. This makes sense. After all, the debate about the ageing population in Japan and Korea is also a matter of concern for other Asian countries, such as Thailand and even China. Moreover, the fair distribution of income is also an issue in the growth of emerging countries, and tax issues for multinational corporations that cannot be discussed without the involvement of developing countries.

Now that the global economy is more closely interconnected than ever, it seems fair to say that there are few if any policy issues that a single country faces alone, nor policy responses that do not affect other countries. If the OECD is able to continue addressing such global changes, then there is much that Japan will gain from the OECD policy debate, and the best points of Japan’s policy responses will then become a reference point for other countries worldwide through the “best practice” prism of the OECD. For this to happen, we must do our utmost to understand and address conditions in Japan from an even wider global perspective. The accession efforts of 50 years ago will then be amply rewarded.


See also

©OECD Observer No 298, Q1 2014

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019