This undated photo shows Mathias Cormann. (MARK GRAHAM / BLOOMBERG)
Australia’s Mathias Cormann was selected on Friday to head the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, defeating Sweden’s Cecilia Malmstrom in a closely contested race.
Mathias Cormann will take over June 1 from Mexico’s Angel Gurria who ran the OECD for a decade and a half
As secretary general of the Paris-based organization, the former Australian finance minister wins a seat at the top table of international economic diplomacy.
Cormann said in a statement that he is honored to take on the role and that the OECD’s “essential mission of the past – to promote stronger, cleaner, fairer economic growth and to raise employment and living standards – remains the critically important mission for the future.”Initially created in 1948 to run the Marshall Plan to reconstruct post-war Europe, the OECD is closely engaged in setting norms for the world’s richest nations and producing policy advice on a vast array of areas from economics to education, climate change and taxation.
Cormann will take over June 1 from Mexico’s Angel Gurria who ran the OECD for a decade and a half. In a months-long selection process, the Australian saw off competitors including BlackRock Inc’s Philipp Hildebrand and former European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.
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Malmstrom was long seen as a front-runner for the role given her experience as a trade commissioner for the European Union. The OECD hasn’t had a European leader for a quarter of a century, despite countries from the bloc making up a majority of the membership. It has never been led by a woman.
According to people familiar with the closed-door negotiations to appoint the new chief, it was 50-50 between Malmstrom and Cormann Thursday evening.
Christopher Sharrock, the UK Ambassador to the OECD who is chairing the selection committee, said a poll of member countries on Friday identified Cormann as the candidate with most support. He will formally recommend the Council appoint Cormann at a meeting due to take place Monday.
As well as competition from other candidates, Cormann had to overcome opposition from climate scientists, a number of whom published an open letter this month saying his public record on climate change should preclude him from the job in Paris.
The 50 year-old, Belgian-born politician has spent about half of his life in Europe and the other half in Australia. As a Christian conservative, he inhabited the powerful right-wing faction of the Liberal party and tore into Labor’s efforts to combat climate change with a carbon tax.