10 June 2017
Paris, 14 June 2017
The 2017 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (7-8 June) , chaired by Denmark, had the bold ambition to “make globalisation work (…) for all”. The outcome of the Ministerial offers a much welcome critical assessment of the drivers of globalisation that have “not benefited everyone”. Turning from assessment to policy prescriptions however, the set of proposals that emerges from the Ministerial is incomplete. On the positive side, the OECD reiterates past calls for greater international cooperation on responsible business conduct, corruption and tax evasion. On the domestic policy front, it also calls for better access to skills upgrading, education and social protection for workers to cope with globalisation and rising inequalities. But the policy setting that is suggested for the future stops short of questioning past labour market flexibility reforms that have left workers and their families on their own through the individualisation and deregulation of labour contracts. The Ministerial outcome also signals a weakening of multilateralism as no full consensus could be found on trade issues and on the Paris agreement on climate change. The agreement on a new OECD framework for “prospective members” took an unsatisfactory turn by focussing on investors and shareholders’ right, while neglecting human rights and environmental and labour standards.
Moving ahead it is essential for the OECD not to fall into a simplistic and unhelpful policy package revolving around free trade at the international level and a “competitiveness” agenda at the domestic level. Doing so would precisely fail to draw the policy lessons of rising inequality and the falling share of labour income. The starting point for this discussion, if indeed globalisation is to “work for all”, is to effectively empower workers’ collectively and ensure a just transition to a low-carbon and increasingly digitalised economy.
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