Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the OECD Forum 2012, Wednesday 23 May, 2012
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to this Signing Ceremony. Today, Colombia and Mexico are taking important steps towards adherence to some of the key OECD legal instruments.
First, Mexico will deposit its Instrument of Ratification, and Colombia will sign the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters. Then, a second highlight of this Ceremony will be Colombia’s adherence to three additional OECD legal instruments: the Recommendation on Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas, the Declaration on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency and the Declaration on Green Growth.
1) Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (Mexico, Colombia)
Let us begin with the Multilateral Convention. It is the most comprehensive multilateral instrument available for tax co-operation and exchange of information, based on automatic exchange of information.
It is a success story of facilitating international co-operation for a better operation of national tax laws, while respecting the fundamental rights of taxpayers. It helps counter cross-border tax evasion and ensure compliance with national tax laws.
Last year, we were successful when we upgraded the Convention in line with international standards in response to the G20-leaders’ call by enabling all countries to become parties to the Convention. Previously, only OECD and Council of Europe member countries were able to join it. This is a very important tool to strengthen the fight against tax evasion that the OECD has championed for many years, and now through the Global Forum and the Convention.
From left to right:
Jose Antonio Maede, Secretary of Finance and public credit of Mexico
Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General
Juan Carlos Echeverry, Minister of Finance and public Credit of Colombia
We are pleased that Colombia and Mexico will benefit from our cross border tax co-operation and information sharing. Your signing of the Convention shows that you are prepared to move from bilateral to multilateral action. And your signing brings the total number of signatories of the amended Convention to 35 – making it a truly international instrument! I can only encourage other countries to follow your example and join this Convention. Colombia and Mexico will now join the ranks of countries that will not allow loses from their tax base due to an out-of-date international framework for cooperation.
The ratification of this Convention by Mexico is particularly important, as it sends a strong message from the Chair of the G20, and shows that Mexico will lead by example in the commitments that are taken in that group. We are also pleased as we have worked closely with them to make the Mexican Presidency of the G20 a very meaningful one for the world economy.
2) Colombia’s adherence: Due Diligence Guidance, PIT Declaration, Green Growth Declaration
I congratulate Colombia on signing the Multilateral Tax Convention and adhering to the Recommendation on Due Diligence Guidance, the PIT-Declaration and the Green Growth Declaration. Let me tell you why these latter three instruments are also key OECD success stories.
First, with the OECD Recommendation on Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas governments have, for the first time, provided a common set of expectations and practical guidance that companies can use as the reference point to shape responsible, conflict-sensitive sourcing practices. This Guidance helps to ensure that companies respect human rights, support peace, development and peaceful coexistence between large-scale operations and local artisanal communities.
Second, the Declaration on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency in the Conduct of International Business and Finance - which we call the PIT Declaration – provides a framework for restoring confidence in financial markets and public institutions. It builds on the very powerful OECD standards in many fields that aim at improving the conduct of corporate business and ensuring a good business climate. Brazil and Russia are signatories, and Morocco and Tunisia also adhered to the Declaration today. We are very pleased that Colombia is also now, by joining this instrument, signalling its political commitments in important areas such as competition, corporate governance, investment, tax co-operation and anticorruption.
Last but not least, Colombia adhered to the OECD Declaration on Green Growth. This Declaration acknowledges that “green” and “growth” can go hand-in-hand. It is yet again another OECD contribution to make concrete steps to advance growth paths that are conscious of our natural resources constraints. It encourages green investment and sustainable management of natural resources and calls to strengthen international co-operation in this field. We are pleased that with Colombia we have gained another important partner in our efforts to help countries pursue green growth strategies. By joining, the Colombians are also sending a message to the world that they will be taking action, independently of how fast or slow international negotiations on climate change will advance. This is the beauty of the OECD Green Growth strategy. Instead of focusing on the ‘why’ and the ‘whom’, it provides countries with actionable policy tools to advance this agenda in their national growth strategies.
Minister Echeverry, Colombia’s adherence to these OECD instruments illustrates its active and continuous engagement in OECD work. It also gives an important political signal on Colombia’s interest to become an OECD member. It is particularly timely as we recently received a formal written request by President Santos in this regard. The OECD considers this as both an honour and a privilege to be part of such strategic importance for a country that has demonstrated strong commitments with the values we share, and that has become a champion of reforms and good governance in the Latin American region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, we have taken major steps forward to strengthen our cooperation on a global scale. And we have provided yet another important example of OECD’s intensified and deepened cooperation with our partners.
The OECD looks forward to working with Colombia and Mexico to maximise the benefits of the instruments in which they are adhering. I congratulate us all on this important day.