Chris Liddell or an Aussie? Nominations for OECD chief could present Peters with a dilemma

Here’s another multi-passport challenge for Foreign Minister Winston Peters. The US is proposing former NZ businessman Chris Liddell as the next director-general of the Paris-based OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The current DG, Angela Guria, has been in the job since 2006. There’s word he wants yet another term. He is a Mexican diplomat and former politician and his term ends this year.

Liddell is head of policy coordination at the White House. He has held high rank in Microsoft and General Motors and joined President Donald Trump at the beginning of his presidency.

What worries Wellington is that he retains joint US and NZ citizenship.

There are several challenges. He has never held ministerial rank, considered essential for the OECD job.  Moreover, President Trump has constantly down-graded and diminished the status and standing of multilateral organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and – by implication – the OECD.

All this has gone down badly in the international community. So, if the US asked the NZ Govt to support his candidacy, what to do?

Another complication is raised by reports from Canberra which indicate Senator Mathias Cormann, the present Minister of Finance, is interested in the position. He is highly qualified, well-respected and has the important ministerial experience.

Whom does NZ prefer? Canberra versus Washington DC? Life was never meant to be easy, as former Australian PM Malcom Fraser constantly reassured us.

Observers believe neither Cormann nor Liddell have much chance. The OECD job has been held by a Canadian, then a Mexican, since 2006.

Some feel the OECD has been diminished by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has not been to the forefront in proposing solutions for members’ economy and has been overtaken by other assemblies.  A European looks likely to take the job.

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