Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
12 September 2019 - OECD, Paris
(As prepared for delivery)
Ministers, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 2019 OECD Global Blockchain Policy Forum. This Forum provides a unique platform to discuss how distributed ledger technologies, like blockchain, are affecting the environment in which policy is implemented, as well as their potential as tools for achieving policy objectives. It is only the second edition of the Forum, and it has already become one of the largest events on the OECD calendar!
This year, the Forum will bring together both industry heavyweights and leading policy thinkers. We will also welcome a number of start-ups coming from across the world to present their ideas as part of the Blockchain Showcase.
Over the next two days, we will talk about some of the most relevant and pressing issues relating to blockchain’s applications. We will also hold exciting discussions about the interface between Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, recognising that these emerging technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, it is from their intersection that the most profound and transformational technological developments will emerge. As a result, both our work on blockchain and on AI have become a key pillar in the second phase of our Going Digital project.
We have come a long way since our first OECD Blockchain Policy Forum, only a year ago. During the discussions, our members reflected on the possibilities, as well as the challenges, that this technology posed for our society, our economy, and for us, as policymakers and international standard-setters. We have also established a dedicated Blockchain Policy Centre, which is quickly becoming a global reference point on the policy implications of this far-reaching technology.
We now have over 20 projects running across the OECD, working with members and stakeholders and touching upon many topics: from competition policy to tax; from stable coins to due diligence in supply chains. As one concrete example of this effort, tomorrow we will launch our report on “Blockchain Technologies as a Digital Enabler for Sustainable Infrastructure”.
This report explores how blockchain technology addresses many of the challenges that large-scale infrastructure investment faces, including access to finance, capacity to align projects with policy objectives, and access to reliable information by governments, financing institutions and the public. As the report shows, blockchain offers a variety of innovative solutions, such as creating new ways of raising capital, providing transparency through an immutable record of transactions, and establishing new inclusive market mechanisms. These are only some examples of the potential of this technology, but we will explore many others over the next two days.
Despite progress, blockchain remains a new technology at an early stage of adoption. Many of our existing policies, previously considered to be “tech-neutral”, are being challenged by the fundamental structure of distributed ledger technologies, which call into question the underlying assumptions in those regulations. Already we have seen how the new Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) guidance on how anti-money laundering rules apply to virtual assets are re-shaping the industry.
As policymakers, we must now move beyond simply gaining an understanding of how blockchain works, to focus on shaping the policy environment for its innovation and adoption.
We also need to learn from the lessons of the first waves of this technological era, ensuring that policy is not left behind resulting in an eventual and inevitable public backlash, as we realise – sometimes too late – what has been compromised or overlooked.
If we are to create a policy environment that supports innovation, while ensuring that we mitigate risks and create a level-playing field, it is important that we establish an overarching framework of blockchain policy principles. Such a framework could provide certainty to the industry, and encourage innovation that advances the societal objectives that our communities demand.
Distributed ledgers, particularly in their most public, permission-less forms, are inherently border-less. Thus, developing a framework of blockchain policy principles is, and must be, a global endeavour. This is why multilateral co-operation is so important.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are in the midst of an unprecedented technological revolution. As Dean Kamen, the inventor of Segway and iBOT, once said, “every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.” Let this be the new technology of our time!
With its policy expertise and global reach, the OECD is uniquely placed to take the leadership with your support and provide a common framework that works for all.
Let’s kickstart that reflection with our discussions today, and strive to deliver such a policy framework by the time we meet for the next Global Blockchain Policy Forum. I encourage you to engage actively in the discussions over the coming two days, but also in the coming weeks and months through the OECD’s Blockchain Policy Centre.
I would now like to welcome to the stage Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance, to share with you France’s vision for blockchain. Thank you.