The new Secretary-General of the OECD: Finland has a natural attitude towards globalisation
"Finland has a natural attitude towards the challenges of globalisation," estimated the new Secretary-General of the OECD Ángel Gurría on his visit to Finland. "This may derive from the fact that, as a small economy, Finland needs external markets," he added. The OECD benefits from countries like Finland that have reformed their economy, and, for its part, the OECD endeavours to assist its member states and other states, the Secretary-General estimated at a press conference on 29 September.
The Secretary-General, who has just started his term in June, had been invited to Finland by Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paula Lehtomäki. In a joint press conference, Lehtomäki underscored that Finland has always been, and still wants to be a strong supporter of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD. Finland is also an advocate of strong OECD, Lehtomäki continued.
Lehtomäki brought up the issue that the global economy has several serious challenges to face. One of these is the interruption of the World Trade Organisation WTO's negotiation round. Lehtomäki reminded that, for its part, the EU has already shown flexibility in WTO negotiations on several occasions in the past. Now the EU, on the other hand, would wish for some flexibility from other WTO members.
As the current holder of the EU Presidency, Lehtomäki pointed out that the EU is still committed to completing the WTO round of negotiations, and, at the same time, to helping the poorest development countries. It is important that the WTO round maintains its status as a development round, she added.
We need rules for global economy
OECD Secretary-General Gurría emphasised that the world and the global economy need rules. Otherwise the laws of jungle will prevail, and only the strongest will succeed. He told that, according to the OECD estimates, it would be particularly the development countries that would gain approximately two thirds of the benefits of the WTO negotiation round, if the round was completed. We should not let this opportunity pass by, Gurría wished. The round of negotiations should be returned back on track.
We must fight for the freedom of trade, even though the related problems and challenges are real. Still, basically it is a question of political will, the Secretary-General estimated. Also Lehtomäki was of the opinion that, if the WTO member states have strong political will to further the WTO round, then time will not become a problem. However, the current "window of opportunity" does not stretch very far - maybe only until next spring because of the U.S. elections next year, the Minister added.
Risks in global economy
The growth of the global economy is expected to continue, estimated the Secretary-General of the OECD, which conducts extensive economic analyses. Europe is back in the game, and so is Japan. In the United States, the fastest growth will probably decline a little, but, evidently, it will still remain pretty strong. In development countries, on the other hand, there are growth figures that may be as much as two or three times higher than in industrialised countries.
Naturally, there are also several other risks involved in global economy, Gurría pointed out. Still, these risks should not be exaggerated. Such risks include, for example, the oil prices, the development of housing markets in Western countries, the development of savings rates, and the development of interest markets. Also the U.S. deficits constitute a risk, but there the latest developments seem to be going into the right direction. Thus, according to Gurría, the OECD's message is: "Let us continue this line of policy, and try and have deficit and other problems gradually taken care of." At the same time, we should be concerned about all forms of protectionism, whether related to trade or, for example, investments, he continued.
Visit to continue to Lapland
José Ángel Gurría Treviño from Mexico was elected the new Secretary-General of the OECD – an organisation with 30 member states – on 1 June this year. During his visit to Finland, he has had meetings with the highest state leaders of Finland, including the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and the Foreign Minister. He has also met representatives of Finnish business life.
Gurría won renown as rehabilitator of the Mexican economy in 1998-2000. In 1999, the Euromoney magazine elected him "The Minister of Finance of the Year", and the following year, in 2000, he was chosen "The Minister of Finance for the World's Dream Cabinet" in the World Link magazine published by the World Economic Forum.
The Secretary-General conducted his official talks on 27-29 September in Helsinki and Tampere. He will finish his tour in Finland by visiting Kuusamo, in Lapland, over the coming weekend.