Remarks by Angel Gurría
26 February 2020 - OECD, Paris
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the OECD’s Global Parliamentary Network (GPN) – in its February 2020 edition. Let me extend a warm welcome to Ivans Klementjevs, Chair of the Economics and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, our important institutional partner. And of course I also thank our partners, the Women Political Leaders (WPL) for their collaboration.
Our discussions with MPs from around the globe are an important highlight in our yearly agendas. Through this dialogue with Parliamentarians, we are able to better connect with society, with different regions and constituencies. We are able to go to a more granular level. That is indispensable for our work and, in-turn, for the policy advice that we provide to you and your governments.
Over the past two days, you have exchanged views with some of our best experts. I will be reflecting on some of your main discussions on taxation, AI, digitalisation and our work in those areas; but before that, let me briefly outline our latest outlook on the global economy.
I wish we had a better outlook to present since we last met. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Global economic prospects remain subdued. GDP growth has slowed. Trade and investment growth remains weak. And although policy uncertainty has declined to an extent, it is still a major concern for firms around the world.
In November we projected global growth to remain below or around 3% for the next two years – the lowest rates since the financial crisis. Since then, the phase 1 trade deal between China and the United States has helped reduce short-term uncertainty. Still, the latest trade indicators are weak, with falling global merchandise trade volumes and falling global port traffic.
Moreover, our projected pick-up in global activity was resting on a growth revival in emerging markets. Yet there are signs that emerging economies will not be the ‘locomotives’ we had hoped for. For instance, the Indian economy has under-performed with around 5% growth in 2019 versus the 5.6% we projected in November.
And now, the coronavirus outbreak and associated policy reactions have slowed the Chinese economy and will likely have a global impact. Major tourism flows have been impeded, and acute supply chain disruptions have materialised even outside China. And only a few days ago, stock markets tumbled in light of the news that the virus was spreading beyond China, in OECD countries including Italy, South Korea and Japan.
In this challenging economic context, our environmental efforts are faltering and emissions are rising again; in the space of only five years, we destroyed an area of natural forests larger than the United Kingdom ; and the smoke from the tragic bush fires in Australia travelled around the globe in 10 days!
These are all salient reminders that we live in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world. There are risks to the global outlook that can only be addressed through international co-operation. Major challenges like climate change mitigation, poverty and inequality, migration trade tensions, or the effort to make multinational enterprises pay their fair share of tax: all require global solutions.
And this is what our discussions over the next few days are all about – finding solutions to such challenges, together.
The tax challenges of the digital world are one example. Yesterday, you heard from Pascal Saint-Amans on how we are making progress and why 2020 is a crucial moment for a global agreement on tax and digitalisation.
Citizens want decisive action to make the tax system fairer. Our preliminary analysis puts the combined effects of the two-pillar solution at up to USD 100 billion annually. These gains are broadly similar across high, middle and low-income economies.
Last month, more than 350 delegates from 137 jurisdictions here in Paris moved closer to the key policy features of a package that could form the basis for a political agreement. And just this past weekend G20 Finance Ministers endorsed the “Unified Approach” as a basis for negotiation under Pillar One and welcomed progress on Pillar Two – both of which form the package that is currently being negotiated by the 137+ members of the Inclusive Framework. In their communiqué, G20 Finance Ministers also encouraged further progress on both Pillars to overcome remaining differences and they reaffirmed their commitment to reach a consensus-based solution with a final report to be delivered by the end of 2020.
There are a number of challenges that remain to be resolved and certain differences between countries that still need to be bridged. The stakes are high. If we fail, tax wars could turn into trade wars, further driving down global growth and investment. This is why we are committed to undertake every effort to deliver, by year-end, a global solution to modernise the international taxation rules for the digital era.
Beyond tax, we have been discussing the future of work, and how digitalisation and globalisation are impacting our daily work and our lives. Our analysis shows that 14% of existing jobs are at high risk of automation in the next 15-20 years, and a further 32% are likely to change significantly due to automation. And job automation risks vary widely across different regions within countries.
But – as you have also heard – with the right policies, we can ensure that the benefits of this transformation are broadly shared across people and places. The Future of Work is in our hands. This is why the OECD is proposing a Transition Agenda for a Future that Works for All.
The transition agenda calls for comprehensive adult learning strategies for retraining and upskilling; it also calls for adapting employment and social protection so that they can respond better to the changing world of work.
Social dialogue and collective bargaining will be crucial to shape this future. The OECD, along with Sweden and the ILO, are working together to strengthen the Global Deal, a multi-stakeholder partnership with more than 100 stakeholders that promotes social dialogue to deliver win-win situations for workers, businesses and society-at-large.
Moreover, as we see from the OECD PISA 2018 results, to achieve better educational outcomes and prepare today’s generation for the world of tomorrow, we need to foster quality, equity and efficiency in our education systems. And to help them develop new capacities for the promotion of social and emotional skills. We must use resources more efficiently; support teachers; and foster a positive climate in schools. Students’ well-being is crucial for mental health, learning and, ultimately, life outcomes.
Even as our students need to learn differently, their future – and that of all citizens – is changing in profound ways. Artificial intelligence (AI) can increase productivity and help address global challenges in health, climate, and education, but also raises real questions for governments and citizens alike. Today you stand at the vanguard as members of the first international legislative group focusing on AI.
You join a host of pioneering efforts here at the OECD, specifically at our Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) in May last year, when we paved the way with the first AI Principles adhered-to by governments. The Principles promote AI that is innovative and trustworthy and that respects human rights and democratic values. They served as the basis for the G20 AI Principles adopted by the Leaders in June, and more countries are signing on: 44 to date.
But this is not enough. We must move from principles to practice. This morning you will get a preview of the OECD AI Policy Observatory. Its robust comparative analysis, combined with a multi-stakeholder approach of sharing data and experiences, is at the core of what we do here. It will stand as a great example of the value that the OECD can contribute.
Before I conclude, let me highlight that this year’s Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM), chaired by Spain, will focus on “Digital, Green and Inclusive: an Integrated Policy Approach for Sustainable Growth”, raising our ambitions to tackle many of the challenges that I have highlighted today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The importance of parliamentarians in helping us to address the complex issues that we face today cannot be overstated.
Together, we can take climate action to improve health, well-being and prosperity; together we can boost growth and make it more sustainable; together we can shape a world that will work for all. Let’s harness the transformative power of collective action to create better policies for better lives.Thank you.