Texte en français
OUTCOME OF THE MEETING
OF THE OECD COUNCIL AT MINISTERIAL LEVEL
Paris, 15-16 May 2002
By the TUAC Secretariat
1. The OECD Ministerial Council meeting took place against
the background of strong differences between the United States and other OECD
countries on recent trade measures. Behind the façade of the positive
communiqué language on meeting the Doha deadline of 2005 for the completion
of negotiations, Trade Ministers themselves seem less confident, especially
over any failure to make progress ahead of the 10-14 September 2003 Fifth
WTO Ministerial Meeting in Mexico. The US Administration was the target of
criticism from the Ministerial Chair and European governments due to recent
moves on steel and agriculture. The chief US trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick,
was not present at the meeting.
2. Ministers were generally upbeat about the state of the
global economy, though the communiqué is less sanguine and importantly states
that monetary policy should continue to support growth. This stands in
contrast to recent comments of the European Central Bank that the role of
monetary policy should be restricted to maintaining price stability not
supporting growth and employment. Meanwhile, differences are emerging between
key European states notably on fiscal policy and the Stability and Growth Pact
(SGP), differences which appeared to be amplified by the recent electoral
gains of the far-right, and its uncertain impact on the future direction of
3. Nevertheless, the communiqué contains important policy
messages in a number of areas for TUAC affiliates (economic and social policy;
and elements of global governance), and trade unions in developing countries.
Much of the communiqué is devoted to development and separate statements were
issued on the OECD role in development and NEPAD. Again these appear to be
excessively complacent with the assumption that the Monterrey Conclusions have
led to increased resources for development assistance and the ball is now in
the developing countries camp to improve governance.
4. Though faced this year with a more limited TUAC and BIAC
input into the Ministerial meeting, the consultations themselves were marked
by an unusual degree of convergence between the labour and business speakers
in a number of areas. Chief among these was the unanimity that the global
economy faces serious downside risks, and that stimulatory measures were still
needed in key regions. Both sides urged in reconsidering the SGP a short-term
expansionary monetary and fiscal stimulus for Europe. There was also agreement
that more work is needed to promote the OECD Guidelines for Multinational
Enterprises - an opportunity missed by the Ministers.
5. The Ministerial overlapped with the OECD Forum 2002.
There was an increased number of trade union speakers at key Forum events,
with a number of other participants intervening from the floor. The TUAC
secretariat will shortly survey the views of trade union participants and
affiliates on the Forum that will feed into the OECD discussions around the
future shape and direction of the Forum itself. This self-assessment will also
allow more effective trade union input in the 2003 Forum.
Economic and Social Issues
6. The introductory language of the communiqué economic
section (paragraph 3) speaks of an OECD-wide economic recovery this year
(including Japan), led by the US. Beyond that optimism, however, importantly
emphasis is given on the need for "monetary policies to remain supportive
of non-inflationary growth" (paragraph 4). This is an important
recognition of the role that monetary policies need to play to support growth
and not simply control inflation. This is an improvement on recent statements
by the European Central Bank. Without mentioning Japan by name, it states
"where price deflation persists monetary policy needs to provide ample
liquidity". Fiscal policy is mentioned in passing, but consolidation
should be dependent upon economic recovery.
7. Structural reform is highlighted within the communiqué,
yet it does not emphasise the past de-regulatory agenda. On this theme, no
reference is made to labour market flexibility which has become the code word
for "negative" de-regulation, while education and training are
highlighted as important for job creation and equal opportunities. Pension
reforms are placed within the context of the fiscal challenge of ageing
societies, and the text on encouraging the employment of older workers, states
that "life-long learning is vital in this regard"
8. A shift appears to have taken place on the role of the
OECD monitoring process as regards economic performance. The Organisation has
been asked to increase its monitoring of this, within the framework of the
Growth Study, which was seen by TUAC as more balanced in its treatment of
labour markets compared to the follow-up of the earlier Jobs Strategy, which
the OECD is requested to "assess". Some of the findings of the
Growth Study challenged the deregulation recommendations of the Jobs Strategy.
The economic and social aspects of migration have been singled out for further
study by the Organisation, both in terms of their impact on home and host
Ensuring Integrity and Transparency in the International
9. A mixed message emerges on OECD work to enhance the
integrity of corporations, financial institutions and markets
(paragraphs 9-12). On the one hand, the Secretary-General’s background
note to Ministers, and the descriptive language to this section, highlights
the fragility and legacy of past deregulation (scope for financial crime,
money laundering, bribery, illicit tax practices, corporate misuse, financing
terrorism, etc.). Yet, the future direction of OECD work to address these
problems is patchy. On the positive side, the OECD will seek to improve
transparency and accountability on corporate and financial governance,
including through regulation. However, specific action is limited. As regards
the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, the focus has changed from their
being reviewed to their being assessed, though this will be brought forward
from 2005 to 2004. As part of this, the Organisation will survey developments
in corporate and financial sector governance to identify lessons, and
implications for the assessment. The TUAC Secretariat will seek to clarify the
implications of this. The OECD and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are
merely encouraged to strengthen co-operative work, including on combating tax
crime, while the FATF’s work to combat money laundering and terrorist
financing is commended.
10. There is a welcome sense of greater urgency on needed
measures by governments to implement and enforce the OECD Anti-bribery
Convention, that also reflects the trade union frustration with slow progress.
Weaknesses are flagged up on its enforcement, gaps in implementation
legislation in some countries, or deficiencies in implementation legislation
elsewhere. Frustrations are expressed also on aspects of the follow-up work,
including around the monitoring, and implementation monitoring process.
Reflecting this, Ministers have called for a report in 2003 that assesses and
sets out solutions to fill any gaps in the Convention and associated OECD
instruments. TUAC welcomes this, and will press for the incorporation of
whistleblower protection in any revised Convention. We have also urged the
OECD to implement the proposal by the International Chamber of Commerce for a
stakeholder work programme (including TUAC) on private to private bribery,
including through subsidiaries, the supply chain and facilitating payments.
Similarly, we support action on the bribery of foreign political parties and
officials, and candidates to political office, to stamp out bribery through
tax havens, and money laundering.
11. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are
mentioned in passing. Ministers agreed only to "continue to promote
(their) implementation", and "in areas such as transparency and
anti-corruption". Insufficient resources and effort are currently being
devoted by the OECD to follow-up work on the Guidelines. The profile of the
OECD was further weakened by this lost opportunity to strengthen their
enforcement and to extend their applicability and coverage to such areas as
export credits. TUAC will be present in a range of meetings on the Guidelines
in June this year, and will press governments’ for action on these issues.
12. Overall, while the momentum has been maintained on OECD
work to strengthen aspects of the global governance system, governments are
clearly now at a crossroads requiring choices on where to go next. There is a
greater sense among governments of the full costs of corporate and financial
sector liberalisation and de-regulation, and that self-regulation is no
panacea. However, they are unsure as to how and where to extend the much
needed and effective soft and hard law regimes to inject some real bite into
the global corporate governance regime.
13. As noted, the atmosphere of the Ministerial was
influenced by the trans-Atlantic row over steel and agriculture which was the
main focus of press coverage. Language was inserted into the communiqué
stating "All OECD members have the responsibility to ensure that the
multilateral trading systems functions effectively" (paragraph 13),
a cryptic reference to recent trade measures by the US Administration.
14. The communiqué alludes to the tight post-Doha
timetable for negotiations and states "we intend to conduct negotiations
according to the agreed schedules, and conclude them by 1 January
2005" (paragraph 13). The treatment of the social dimension of trade
is weak, it is asserted that "liberalisation can be conducted so as to
minimise the social costs for adjustment, support environmental protection and
preserve the right of governments to regulate in the public interest"
(paragraph 14). The communiqué does "welcome the creation of the
ILO World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation and will seek to
contribute constructively to its activities" (paragraph 14). TUAC
will be arguing for an effective input from a range of OECD Committees and
Departments, including the Trade Committee.
15. Otherwise the OECD reached an agreement with the WTO to
build up a database on WTO-related technical assistance and capacity building.
It is recognised that this could be most beneficial "if combined with
sound policies and good governance" (paragraph 15). The OECD
essentially views its role as analysis sharing or as a WTO analytical basis:
"By sharing its work with civil society and non-member economies, the
OECD can help broaden the constituency for trade liberalisation and
strengthened WTO rules, build bridges and facilitate multilateral trade
negotiations". However, given the limited social elements in the OECD’s
trade work this process looks like a one-way street. Of particular importance
could be for the OECD to offer a wider choice of development policy options,
rather than a one-size-fits-all policy.
16. The communiqué appears self-congratulatory on its
"forward-looking agenda on trade and development"
(paragraph 2). Its "forward-looking agenda" emphasises
structural reform and is missing one essential ingredient: the social pillar.
The downside of the impact of structural reform is not addressed, when even
the IFI’s have recognised the negative outcomes of certain structural
reforms, and nowhere is there a call for an assessment of the social impact of
structural reform on the poor. The central theme of this OECD Ministerial was
partnership, growth and development but the role that civil society and
workers organisations play as strong social partners in development was
17. The lack of a satisfactory social dimension in the
development section of the communiqué shows how much work there is still to
do in order to raise the level of awareness across OECD governments
Directorates and Committees, including the DAC on the need for policy
recommendations that weigh the impact on the people who bear the burden when
economic policies fail. This is further reflected in the lack of reference to
the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, despite
a major focus on it by the OECD Environment Directorate. Further, the OECD
cannot talk about human rights in one part of its work and ignore them in the
others, especially in the ministerial where policy coherence is so crucial.
For example, in paragraph 6, referring to "our fight against
terrorism" it stresses policies that safeguard human rights and
democratic values. But those same rights and values appear absent from the
policy recommendations carried in the press statement from the DAC High Level
Meeting and the OECD communiqué itself. The favourable language on human
rights and a rights-based approach to development contained in the DAC Poverty
Reduction Guidelines should have been a basis for a more positive approach in
the communiqué. Democracy and good governance, so essential to poverty
reduction and sustainable development, cannot take place without strong social
partners and basic freedoms.
18. In a separate statement the OECD Ministers welcomed the
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The Ministers agreed to
increase African participation in OECD work, exchange views on peer review
mechanisms and assess best practice approaches to sustainable development. It
is essential that the "governance" element of NEPAD’s work is
firmly built on the respect of human rights and core labour rights. The NEPAD
must become a real partnership between African governments and their people in
which there is shared ownership. The OECD should conduct an early forum
meeting to include African trade unionists in this process. The TUAC will work
with its Global Union partners to achieve this.