Introductory Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, 2009 BIAC Business Roundtable
21 May 2009, Lisbon, Portugal
Minister Texeira Dos Santos, Mr. Rocha de Matos, Mr. Heeter, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a privilege to open this OECD-BIAC Business Roundtable on Responses to the Global Economic Crisis. Helping member and non-member countries overcome this crisis and build a stronger, fairer and cleaner global economy is the priority for OECD. The perspective of our private sector is essential to get it right. Thank you very much for the invitation.
We are facing the gravest crisis of our lifetimes; but it is also the greatest opportunity of our lives. An opportunity to build a stronger and more resilient global economy; an opportunity to turn open trade and investment into a truly social equaliser; an opportunity to improve corporate and global governance to restore public trust in governments and markets, the two “lungs” of human progress.
Today, more than ever, public policies have to be synchronised with business strategies. The new world needs a fluid communication between policy-makers and business. The strength of our recovery processes will depend among other factors on the quality of that communication; on the capacity of governments to sense and read the state of the business sector and vice versa. And more importantly give confidence.
Thus, I believe that the current global economic crisis has placed the BIAC-OECD partnership in a strategic position.
BIAC’s contributions have played a crucial role in the work of OECD for more than four decades. Many of its recommendations have translated into policies, international standards and principles. Our collaboration in fields like corporate governance, taxation, the business environment and competition policy has been instrumental to build our Strategic Response to the crisis, our contributions to the Legal Standard of the G8 Italian Presidency, the German initiative of the Global Charter or the work of the G20 Summit of London.
Promoting open markets and job creation ─ the topic of today’s Roundtable ─ are two key objectives in the agenda of OECD. We must work together to prove that economic nationalism is not an antidote for unemployment; to explain to a broad audience, with accessible figures and concrete examples, the many benefits of open trade and investment. As our new book “International Trade: Free, Fair and Open?” argues, prosperity has rarely, if ever, been achieved or sustained without trade.
Let me put it this way, very much in tune with Charlie Heeter’s and Tadahiro Asami’s message in this year’s BIAC Annual Report: one of the most effective ways to solve our employment challenges is to finish DOHA. International trade flows are set to fall by 13% this year and this is having a tremendous impact on growth and employment. Closed markets close factories, and that’s always the start of a negative global spiral in a highly interdependent world.
So let’s put our minds together to reflect deeply, objectively, on how to make open markets work for employment; to help strengthen our policy responses to the crisis. In this exercise, I invite you to be both critical and creative and think what type of open markets we want, what kind of global economy we need, how can we turn open markets into long-term sustainable development. Remember, we are facing a massive systemic failure and this time there is no going back to business as usual.
I will be meeting many of you later on, as I will be delivering a keynote speech on the OECD’s perspective and response to the global economic crisis; and again next month, in Washington, at the OECD/USCIB/BIAC Tax Conference and during the BIAC/OECD consultations ahead of OECD’s Ministerial Meeting 2009.
I very much look forward to these exchanges. Only collective thinking will make us turn risk into progress.
Thank you very much. I hope that you have a very productive and inspiring day.