Free trade, the Global Deal and the economic potential of gender equality. These were among the topics Sweden raised during this year’s OECD Week in Paris, where the theme was how globalisation can better benefit everyone.

This year’s OECD Week in Paris on 6–9 June focused on how the advantages of globalisation can better benefit everyone and how we can strengthen the link between economic growth and inclusive societies through an active distribution policy.

During the week, Sweden highlighted the importance of promoting economic openness and free trade. It also highlighted the economic potential of gender equality and the importance of taking measures to strengthen gender equality. Sweden also called attention to the Prime Minister’s social dialogue initiative, the Global Deal, which is being carried out in cooperation with the OECD and the ILO to strengthen consensus, inclusive growth and productivity.

More people should benefit from globalisation

The annual OECD Week in early June forms a major part of the hub of the OECD’s activities, where follow-up is done on work carried out and the direction of future work in the organisation is set. The main features during OECD Week are the Ministerial Council Meeting and the OECD Forum. The theme of this year’s OECD Week focused on how globalisation can better benefit everyone. Globalisation has lifted millions of people out of poverty and created a multitude of jobs and business opportunities around the world, including in Sweden. At the same time, the advantages and disadvantages of globalisation vary greatly between cities and rural areas, between those who are well-educated and those with less education, and between traditionally leading major economies and new emerging economies. And we have seen that in some situations, populism, protectionism and pessimism have followed in the wake of globalisation.

The discussions during the Ministerial Council Meeting on how the advantages of globalisation can better benefit everyone focused on the importance of international rules-based cooperation, free trade and countering protectionism. Other issues addressed included the importance of combining measures to promote economic growth with a distribution policy that means that people can better benefit from globalisation.

Important to combat digital exclusion

Many participants also brought up the issue of how digitalisation will affect our societies and the economy, including the consequences of jobs disappearing or changing, and of new demands on both individuals and companies to promote skills development that keeps pace with the changes that accompany digitalisation. To some extent, the ongoing digitalisation process also strengthens globalisation, and it is important that those who are adversely affected by the consequences of globalisation do not also end up in a state of digital exclusion. And if we ensure the fundamental requirements for further training and investments, digitalisation can instead create new opportunities for regions and people.

Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson took part in the opening panel discussion on ‘Stocktaking on Globalisation: Opportunities and Challenges of Economic Integration’. Ms Andersson highlighted the importance of promoting gender equality, both to achieve economic growth and to create more inclusive societies.

Slow development in gender-equal societies – despite evidence that equality makes sense

Gender equality issues were also raised at the Ministerial Council Meeting when the OECD presented a report on the gender equality situation in OECD countries and a number of other countries. The report shows that progress towards a more gender-equal society is moving very slowly even though the ambition is there and it is statistically proven that a more gender-equal economy with a greater proportion of women’s participation in the labour market leads to higher growth. In light of this, the ministers decided to reinforce efforts, including by adopting comprehensive plans and measures to mainstream and improve gender equality in line with the OECD Gender Recommendations. In the decision, the ministers also emphasised that they recognise that gender equality is a strong driver of economic development, and also promotes inclusivity and socio-economic participation.

State Secretary Hans Dahlgren highlighted the Global Deal

The OECD Forum, which precedes the actual Ministerial Council Meeting, is an open format meeting for all areas of society, including ministers, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media. This year, more than 3 000 people took part in the Forum, and there were more than 200 speakers. One of these was Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s State Secretary Hans Dahlgren, who took part in a discussion on ‘Inclusive Growth and Globalisation’. In the discussion, he particularly emphasised the Prime Minister’s Global Deal, the purpose of which is to strengthen the social dialogue between employers, trade unions, governments, civil society and others to promote decent work, productivity and inclusive growth. Mr Dahlgren also emphasised the close collaboration with the OECD and the ILO on the Global Deal.

Social dialogue and the Global Deal were also highlighted at the Ministerial Council Meeting, and the ministers instructed the OECD to deepen work on social dialogue. Member countries also undertook to work to strengthen social dialogue.

Representatives of the Swedish business sector, trade unions, civil society and the media were also present during OECD Week, as were a group of members of the Riksdag, to take part and contribute to the discussions.

Negotiations conducted in record time on agreement on reduced opportunities for tax avoidance

Also during OECD Week, the BEPS Convention (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) was signed by some 70 countries. The convention will reduce opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises, and is a milestone achievement in countering tax evasion. The BEPS project was jointly developed by the OECD and the G20. The project is unique since it is the first time the 35 OECD countries have worked together with the G20 to produce a legally binding instrument. Even if, as usual, the impact of the agreement depends on how well and how quickly it is implemented in the signatory countries, it is an agreement that was negotiated in record time in a group of countries that represent an overwhelming majority of the world’s economy. This opens new possibilities for similar engagement in the future.

Free trade alone is not enough

This year, OECD Week focused on the negative consequences of globalisation and which policy measures governments can implement to mitigate them, while stimulating inclusive growth. Based on Swedish premises, it could be expected that the 2030 Agenda would have played a bigger role in this context, since it contains many of the answers to what needs to be done to achieve precisely this. However, it is clear that many OECD member countries see primarily free trade as a crucial area to focus on. This could be due to the new US administration’s view of free trade, or possibly to a limited overall perspective. However, the Swedish view is that even if free trade and economic growth are priorities, they must be supplemented by gender equality, social dialogue and sustainable development to create the inclusive growth that we all want.

 

Annika Markovic, Sweden’s Ambassador to the OECD

Jörgen Karlsson, Sweden’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the OECD