THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Hello, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center’s briefing to preview the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting taking place next week. My name is Wes Robertson, and I’m the moderator for today’s briefing.
Our briefer today is Matt Murray, the Senior Bureau Official in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. In this role, Matt leads EB’s efforts to create jobs at home, boost economic opportunities overseas, and make America more secure. He joined EB as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Trade Policy and Negotiations in September of 2020. In that capacity, he led four offices that oversee the State Department’s engagement to open new markets, resolve trade disputes, protect intellectual property rights, and promote agricultural innovation. Prior to his service in EB, he was the Economic Minister Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China. He also served as Economic Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia.
And now for the ground rules. This briefing is on the record. We will post a transcript and video for this briefing later today on our website, which is fpc.state.gov. Please make sure that your Zoom profile has your full name and the media outlet you represent. Also please ensure that you’re on mute.
After we hear from Senior Bureau Official Murray, we’ll open it up for questions. Over to you, sir.
MR MURRAY: Well, thank you very much, Wes, and thank you to the Foreign Press Center for the opportunity today. I’m delighted to join you all to discuss the upcoming OECD Ministerial Council Meeting to be held October 5th and 6th in Paris. The United States is chairing this round of the ministerial together with the Republic of Korea and Luxembourg as vice chairs.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Paris to serve as head of our delegation. He will be joined there by U.S. Trade Representative Tai, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Rouse, and Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Fernandez.
This year’s OECD ministerial is especially significant as we are celebrating the organization’s 60th anniversary. Forged out of the destruction of World War II, in part to administer the Marshall Plan, the OECD took its present form in 1961 as the premier forum for free market democracies to tackle shared challenges. Today, its 38 member countries work together to create better policies for better lives.
The world faces a number of challenges at the moment, including the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued global economic inequality. But if these challenges are great, so too is our will to solve them, and ability to make progress when we work together. Indeed, the theme of this year’s ministerial is “Shared Values: Building a Green and Inclusive Future.”
And before we turn to questions, I’d like to share with you some of the ways we are leveraging this ministerial and, more importantly, the ongoing work of the OECD to advance this important theme.
First, on building a green future, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry will lead ministerial sessions that allow OECD members to share best practices on combating the climate crisis as we all look ahead to COP26 in Glasgow this fall. With more than 60 percent of the world’s GDP, the OECD can be a key driver of climate action, especially in modeling commitments to move towards a net-zero economy by 2050, which will be required to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
As we work for a greener future, we also need sustainable infrastructure that adheres to robust standards for labor and the environment and that is built to serve the needs of local populations. The ministerial is an opportunity for us to share progress on implementing the Blue Dot Network. Indeed, we are working with the OECD on a methodology and metrics to the Blue Dot Network to certify quality infrastructure investment.
Second, the ministerial is a venue for cooperation to help us build not only a green future but also an inclusive one. This is particularly the case in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated pre-existing economic, social, gender, ethnic, and racial inequalities. The pandemic has caused unemployment to surge around the world and highlighted the weak labor protections that many workers around the globe face. As OECD members recover, we must endeavor to defend workers’ rights, interests, and protections. This is not only the right thing to do, but also because democracy and human rights are themselves strengthened when the benefits of economic growth are more broadly shared.
For many years, the OECD has also been deeply involved in helping member countries combat discrimination against a wide range of groups, thanks to its pathbreaking work on gender equality, aging in employment, disability, the integration of immigrants and their families, and more recently the inclusion of LGBTQI individuals.
That is why we are hosting a side event at the MCM focused on bridging the digital gender divide on October 5th. Under Secretary Fernandez is scheduled to give opening remarks at the event, as the United States believes the full participation of women and girls across all aspects of our society and economy, including the digital economy, is essential to our collective economic well-being, health, and security of our nation and of the world.
We will continue to look to the OECD for policy recommendations that promote the benefits of economic expansion and make the economic case for ensuring disadvantaged and marginalized communities are fully engaged in our society.
For in the end, the OECD ministerial is really a chance to championing our shared core values and strengthen the rules-based global economy. Together we aim to ensure our economic cooperation reflects transparency, equality, and fairness; generates better, sustainable, and more equitable economic opportunities for our citizens; and leaves a greener world for future generations.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take some questions.
MODERATOR: All right, we’ll now enter the question-and-answer portion of the briefing. If you have a question, you can go to the participant field and virtually raise your hand. We will call on you, and you can unmute yourself and ask your question. You can also submit questions in the chat box. If you’ve not already done so, please, again, take the time now to rename your Zoom profile with your full name and the name of your media outlet.
So the first question we have is from Pearl Matibe. Pearl, if you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Wes. Good morning, Mr. Murray, and I really appreciate your availability to talk to us about the OECD ministerial today. I wonder if we can just get back like to the very basics of what OECD stands for. My media outlet is Power FM in Johannesburg, South Africa. I’m based here in Washington, D.C.
My question to you is, yes, I appreciate the fact that they will be having these side meetings. You mentioned digital divide. You talked about the green future. These are all great topic areas which I believe are central to the Biden agenda. However, to the essence of who OECD is and as they are trying to do – establish these international standards, talk to me about what is it about the OECD’s makeup or constitution or vision that excludes a huge part of the planet, which is Africa, in how it kind of moves forward. So maybe educate me a little bit about what is it about OECD that they’re building this future for the world and yet excludes a significant part of the world. Thanks very much.
MR MURRAY: Thanks for the question. I appreciate that. I think together through the OECD we want to work closely to strengthen the rules-based global economy; ensure our economic cooperation reflects shared values of transparency, equality, and fairness; to generate better, sustainable, and more equitable economic opportunities for our citizens; and leave a greener world, as I said previously.
And the OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, to your initial point about what it is. It currently includes 38 members, and again, it’s celebrating the 60th anniversary this year. I think certainly for this group to get together (inaudible).
QUESTION: Mr. Murray, you might be muted.
MODERATOR: We seem to have had a technical difficulty.
MR MURRAY: I’m back. Sorry about that.
MODERATOR: Okay, all right.
MR MURRAY: Certainly, to your question about other parts of the world, I mean, there are a number of different fora that – where we engage to really promote a shared vision of a sustainable and inclusive economic future for all, and the OECD ministerial happens to be one place where we do that. So certainly, we do want to take into account the views of other parts of the world as well. Thanks.
QUESTION: Sorry, Mr. Murray. Can (inaudible) foreign press, can I just ask a follow-up question of —
MODERATOR: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. So I appreciate the 38 member countries. The point I was trying to, I guess, press on is out of those 38 countries there is not one single country from Africa; there is not one single country from Sub-Saharan Africa; not at all from, for example, President Cyril Ramaphosa, or maybe Masisi, or Ghana, or Zambia that is invited even, but that is part of that makeup. In other words, those people who represent this huge part of the globe’s population are actually excluded from the table. Thanks.
MR MURRAY: No, definitely I hear you there. I think my – the way I would respond to that is that there are a number of different organizations where we work with multilaterally to try to promote, again, a sustainable and economic – sustainable and inclusive economic growth. And the OECD happens to be one, and that’s the meeting that we’re headed to next week. There also are a number of different organizations that do include – that does include membership from Africa. And I know, for example, I’m very excited and our team is very excited about looking ahead to the African Growth and Opportunity Act Ministerial that will be happening later in October. And so it certainly is not an intention to exclude any one country or region in our policy. It just happens that with the OECD that will be next week that that’s – the case is that the 38 members are the 38 members that we’ve been engaged with there.
We do continue to look at opportunities, and will be looking at opportunities beyond the – this ministerial at expanding the membership based on some of the standards and the values that the OECD espouses. Thanks.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Murray. I really appreciate it. We’ll be following. Thanks.
MODERATOR: All right. I don’t see another question submitted at this point, but we do have one that was submitted earlier. This is from Matthew Cranston from the Australian Financial Review. He asked: “What aspect of a carbon tax might be considered for (inaudible)?”
MR MURRAY: Yep, no, thanks for the question. So clearly addressing the climate crisis is a top priority for the Biden and Harris administration, and it’s a key – it will be a key topic of discussion at the MCM, as I noted, particularly in the sessions chaired by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry. And we recognize that solving the climate crisis cannot be done by OECD countries alone, but the OECD can serve as a platform to share best practices and unlock ambition in some of the nonmember countries.
So I don’t want to get ahead of Special Envoy Kerry on his discussions with OECD members or specific tools, but generally speaking we recognize that market-based mechanisms are one of the many tools that can, under the right circumstances and if designed properly, be useful in advancing climate action.
MODERATOR: Thank you. I don’t see any additional hands raised, but we do have a number of folks who have called in. So if you’re in – called in on the phone and can’t raise your hand, if you’d like to unmute yourself and ask a question, now is an opportunity. Just make sure that you mention your full name and media outlet if you do.
OPERATOR: I believe to ask a question by phone, you would press *6.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Well, I don’t see any more questions coming in that way, so I think we’ll go ahead and conclude the briefing. I want to give special thanks for our briefer for sharing his time with us today. For those of you who participated, thank you very much and have a good day.