Texte en français
OUTCOME OF THE MEETING
OF THE OECD COUNCIL AT MINISTERIAL LEVEL
(16-17 May 2001)
By the TUAC Secretariat
1. The OECD Ministerial Council and the parallel (Forum) meetings were
dominated by the attitude of the new US Administration to three issues:-
the launching of a new trade round at the WTO Ministerial in November;
the withdrawal of Administration support for the Kyoto Protocol on climate
change; and the withdrawal of support for the OECD work to outlaw tax havens.
This detracted from a sense of urgency on the immediate economic situation
which continues to deteriorate, the OECD growth project and broader discussion
on sustainable development.
2. Nevertheless, the communiqué restates the 2000 Ministerial
meeting theme of “shaping globalisation”, which is significant in that
it focuses on governance of global markets as opposed to mere deregulation.
In addition, it says that governments are committed to doing this in the
“benefit of all, and ensuring that the poorest are not left behind” (§
4). The trade session of the Ministerial involved a dialogue with selected
non-member countries (Brazil, China, Indonesia, Mali, Romania, Russia,
Singapore and South Africa). On the trade union side the General Secretary
of NACTU South Africa took an active part in the delegation that met the
3. The Ministerial was preceded both by a meeting of Environment Ministers
and a major conference (OECD Forum 2001) as in 2000, which is described
in the communiqué as “an effective multi-stakeholder dialogue”.
Trade union delegations took part in both events. Unlike in the 2000 Ministerial
there was a discussion to establish a “Public Interest Advisory Committee”.
Instead the communiqué notes “OECD’s enhanced co-operation with
its long-standing partners BIAC and TUAC has been complemented over the
last year by strengthened co-operative activities with NGO’s and other
representatives of civil society” (§ 7).
4. Trade issues and the prospects of a new round to be launched at the
WTO Ministerial in Doha dominated much at the Ministerial discussions and
the consultations with TUAC and BIAC. The economics and trade Ministers
taking part seemed relieved that they could agree that they are “committed
to the launch of a new global round of multilateral trade negotiations
of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha in November”. Issues, such as
to whether this is designed to be narrow or broad road, developing country
views and the issues of environment and labour remain unclear. In a potentially
significant section the communiqué says: “All WTO Members will need
to be creative and flexible in addressing areas and modalities of negotiation.
Trade and labour as well as other social development issues raise concerns
that must be addressed through dialogue that takes into account the expertise
of all relevant international institutions, including the WTO” (§
5. In the section on “governance” particular attention is given to the
implementation of the anti-bribery convention and the need to move ahead
on related issues including bribery of “foreign political parties” (§
28). Given the Bush Administration’s much criticised attack on the OECD
work on eliminating tax havens, all the communiqué can say is “we
note the work undertaken on harmful tax practices and look forward to the
conclusions of the OECD project (§ 29).
6. A re-affirmation of commitment is given to the OECD Guidelines on
Multinational Enterprises (§ 31). It welcomes the intention of eight
further countries to adhere to the OECD Declaration, which includes the
Guidelines (Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Singapore, Slovenia and
7. On export credits the Ministers repeated a call for work on environment
Guidelines to be completed by the end of 2001.
8. The central discussion at the Ministerial and at the parallel meeting
of Environment Ministers was the criticism by other countries of the Bush
Administration’s decisions to withdraw support for the Kyoto Protocol on
climate change limiting CO2 emissions. In the end, the compromise communiqué
said: “While recognising our differences over the Kyoto Protocol, OECD
governments are determined to work together to address climate change and
will participate constructively in the resumed COP 6 in Bonn. For a large
majority of OECD countries this means seeking entry into force of the Kyoto
Protocol by 2002, with timely ratification processes, and with the broadest
possible support of the international community” (§ 14).
9. TUAC will continue to push for an adequate work programme on the
social dimension of sustainable development. The communiqué does
have a section on “the social dimension of sustainable development” (§
16-19). This refers simply to OECD work on social cohesion, health and
migration. Whilst these are desirable in their own right they do not reflect
the content of background documents which were adopted by the OECD Council,
some of which originated from the Environment Ministers. A separate TUAC
note on the Environment Ministers’ meeting comments on these elements of
Economic Policy and Growth
10. In stark contrast to the 2000 Ministerial Council, this year’s meeting
came against the background of rapidly deteriorating growth prospects.
OECD growth is forecast to be only 2% in 2001 - half that in 2000 and 30%
lower than that forecast by the OECD six months ago. Despite this, little
urgency or commitment for action is given by Finance Ministers to the necessary
action or stimulus measures to restore faster growth. Instead they argue
“macroeconomic policies and structural reforms should aim to enhance productivity
growth and increase employment over the long term” (§ 8).
11. The Ministers were given the completed OECD growth project. This
also failed to adequately deal with the importance of maintaining macroeconomic
policies that achieve the highest level of sustainable growth. Instead,
the communiqué states: “Stable macroeconomic policies are a prerequisite
for a successful growth strategy, higher employment and price stability.
Fiscal discipline and productivity-oriented wage developments contribute
to low inflation, and reduce uncertainty, thus enhancing the efficiency
of price mechanisms in allocating resources and strengthening consumer
and investor confidence.” (§ 20). More usefully the report strongly
emphasises human and social capital. Whilst this is referred to in general
terms the stronger conclusions of the Report on the need to raise teachers’
pay and give workers “voice” a hearing do not find their way into the final
communiqué. These are contained however in the Executive Summary
of the Report made available to Ministers. The communiqué notes
that the OECD will continue its analysis on the role of ICT and human and
social capital (§ 21).