U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh
On USOECD Priorities
At a Meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce
May 7, 2010
Hello everyone. Thank you all for coming.
Thank you, Oliver, for organizing this round-table. Very best wishes to you for your new role at the World Bank.
First, I'll say a few words about the OECD.
Second, I'll touch on our priorities.
Third, I'll open it to questions for the group.
First, what is the OECD?
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is made up of 31 countries.
Its work is done by committees of delegates from member country governments - so for example the Assistant AG for Anti-Trust and the Chairman of the FTC come here to participate in working groups on consumer protection. These committees develop the soft-law multilateral agreements such as the e-commerce guidelines or the Anti-Bribery Convention.
The OECD Secretariat - made up of 2500 mostly economists - supports these Committees.
Interaction with the business and labor communities is through two Advisory committees.
In all, 1,200 U.S. delegates visit the OECD each year. Our mission assists these delegates and provides strategic guidance as to the U.S. agenda here at the OECD. In addition, I sit on the Council, which is the governing board of the OECD and we work to ensure that the OECD is well run.
But we're a lean team here of 20 -- mostly from the Department of State, but Maureen is from the Department of Energy and Dirk is with USAID.
The OECD has an important role to play in the new global economy.
And to help it do that we're focused on three priorities: one ensuring a level playing field; two, promoting growth and job creation; and three, ensuring prosperity for all.
First, a level playing field.
- The signature OECD instrument is the Anti-Bribery Convention. U.S. companies had to comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act but compete against foreign competitors who were free to bribe - in fact foreign bribes were tax deductible in many countries! So the U.S. worked through the OECD and today the Anti-Bribery Convention has 38 signatories. We have had a number of big successes at the OECD in the past year in getting other countries to beef up their efforts: (1) The OECD adopted private sector guidelines for combating foreign bribery. (2) We are extremely pleased that the UK has recently adopted historic anti-bribery legislation. (3) In addition the U.S. succeeded in getting agreement that a list of countries' actions will be published. And (4) There will now be regular prosecutors' meetings. These are all things the U.S. sought for a long time but it is through this multilateral entity that we can get them done. Now Russia has said it wants to accede to the convention in order to join the OECD. And of course we have our sights set on China.
- Through these instruments, the OECD helps businesses save.
- OECD export credits arrangements prevent countries from unfairly subsidizing national companies with below-market financing assistance and saves taxpayers an estimated 800 million euros each year!
- The OECD chemicals program creates a standard for chemicals testing and prevents wasteful duplicate testing, saving governments and the private sector more than 150 million euros each year!
- Tax instruments, developed and implemented at the OECD, help protect businesses from inconsistent treatment and double taxation.
Second, the U.S. puts a lot of emphasis on OECD work that encourages countries to compete based on innovation rather than subsidies or protectionism.
- The OECD e-commerce guidelines and privacy guidelines are THE international guidelines. These are both up for review. Obviously, the U.S. and the EU have different approaches on some of these issues, and U.S. companies face the cost of complying with very different privacy regulations. We're work ing with the Department of Commerce and the FTC to find ways to address this.
- The U.S. is engaged in two major studies on Innovation and Green Growth which we've been helping to guide and can discuss later.
Third, shared prosperity. The global economy presents a major challenge. Productivity is up but still unemployment in the U.S. is 9.7% and youth unemployment is 20%.
- At the OECD, countries can benchmark their education systems and learn about best practices in education reform. It does similar work on health and labor.
- In addition, at our urging, the OECD will be undertaking a project on women's economic empowerment - essential given the coming demographic challenges and also given what economists now know about how important women's economic wellbeing is to families and communities.
The OECD has a great deal to offer the global economic architecture. But of course it has challenges of its own, mostly how to integrate the emerging economies: China, India, Brazil. We're working to help it do that in a strategic way.
I'd like to ask you to help us in some of our work but first, I'd like to open the floor for your questions for our very strong team whom I'll quickly introduce.
- William Monroe, former Ambassador to Bahrain, is the Deputy Chief of Mission.
- Lucy Tamlyn is the Economics Counselor who manages the team of portfolio managers and sits on the Budget and External Relations Committee.
- Dirk Dijkerman is our colleague from USAID, who works on development issues at the OECD and sits on the Development Assistance Committee.
- Meg Hawley-Young is our Trade and Agriculture Advisor, who can tell you more about accession, enhanced engagement and why expanding membership is so important at the OECD.
- Patrick O'Reilly is our Economics Advisor. Perhaps he can tell you more about the Investment Committee's successes during the recent financial crisis.
- Guillermo Christensen, our Science and Technology Advisor, can tell you more about the Innovation Strategy and the important work the OECD is doing in Internet Privacy.
- Charles Randolph is our Environment and Education Advisor. He'll tell you more about our Green Growth initiative and the importance of PISA.
- Pamela Bates, our Energy Advisor, who is also responsible for work on the Anti-Bribery Convention.
- Andrea Lewis is our Labor and Health Advisor. She's responsible for the transparency and women's initiatives and can tell you more about how we're trying to open up the OECD.
- Zoë Mezin is our Public Affairs Advisor. She works on ensuring the free flow of information within the Mission, with delegates, government officials and society as a whole.
- Maureen Clapper, our colleague from the Department of Energy, is in a meeting and could not be with us today. But we'll be happy to relay any questions you may have.
With that, I look forward to hearing your questions.
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