New Secretary-General Could Stop Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development From Veering Further Left

COMMENTARY International Economies

New Secretary-General Could Stop Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development From Veering Further Left

Apr 5th, 2021 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
James M. Roberts

Research Fellow For Economic Freedom and Growth

James M. Roberts' primary responsibility is to edit the Rule of Law and Monetary Freedom sections of Index of Economic Freedom.
Minister for Finance Senator Mathias Cormann during a press conference in the Main Committee room at Parliament House on October 08, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Sam Mooy / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

New leadership might be exactly what this taxpayer-funded international think tank needs, as it has clearly deviated from its initial mission.

Cormann, a political moderate, has repeatedly expressed concern about extreme measures to respond to climate change, urging a more measured and realistic approach.

The United States should stay involved with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and support incoming Secretary-General Cormann.

Longtime Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has recently been elected to a five-year term as secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental economic group based in Paris.

Cormann will assume his duties on June 1, replacing three-term Secretary-General Angel Gurría of Mexico. New leadership might be exactly what this taxpayer-funded international think tank needs, as it has clearly deviated from its initial mission of promoting prosperity and opportunity around the world.

As Heritage Foundation analysts reported earlier this year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development did vitally important work during its first few decades to open markets, enhance flows of capital across international borders, and increase the confidence of foreign direct investors.

However, during Gurría’s 15-year tenure, the organization moved steadily to the left on multiple issues.

For example, there has been the increased and intensive focus by the organization on climate policy. Climate activists on its staff have made policy recommendations that inevitably demand more government financing and control of energy.

In 2016, it created the Centre on Green Finance and Investment to support the transition to a “green, low-emissions and climate-resilient economy.”

Along with the organization’s Environment Directorate, the Centre on Green Finance and Investment has advocated a number of interventionist climate proposals similar to pushes seen in the European Union and some parts of the United States (e.g. the “Green New Deal”).

For example, the European Union’s program to achieve “climate neutrality” by 2050 appears to be supported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s work.  

That work reflects the “whole of government” approach that the left wants to take to address climate issues, with a strong focus on changing how people produce and consume energy, manufacture goods, or grow and process food.

Cormann, a political moderate, has repeatedly expressed concern about extreme measures to respond to climate change, urging a more measured and realistic approach.

The fact that Reuters reported that climate activists such as Greenpeace responded to his election by calling his record on climate “atrocious” is music to the ears of conservatives.

Climate is not the only issue on which the organization has veered leftward. In recent years, its high-taxing European members have pushed for an almost obsessive research focus on international tax avoidance and evasion, and to support ever more intrusive and bureaucratic measures. These decisions have no regard for the impact they would have on the economy, lower-income people, and the developing world.

The organization also recommends that private banks change their lending and underwriting practices to achieve environmental goals.

These programs complement an overarching campaign to restructure all economic activity and redefine the purpose of private businesses for various social or political objectives unrelated to earning a return, satisfying customers, or treating workers or suppliers fairly.

It remains to be seen if Cormann will rein in these misguided economic positions, but one can only hope that he will implement a course correction at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The United States should stay involved with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and support incoming Secretary-General Cormann.

Let’s hope the Biden administration encourages Cormann to change course at the forum—away from the near full-time promotion of socialism and big government solutions, which require ever-higher taxes and ever more intrusive government—and toward the foundation of economic freedom upon which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was originally chartered.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal