National’s leader, Judith Collins, reckons the government should be supporting Kiwi Chris Liddell in his bid to become the next Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Liddell, who has dual US and NZ citizenship, is serving in the White House as US President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff and was nominated by Trump in September to be the next boss of the OECD.
The NZ government has yet to decide if it will support him, prompting Collins to say Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should “front up” if she has a problem with his work for Trump.
“I would have thought that it is always going to be in New Zealand’s best interest to have a highly qualified, very experienced person like Chris Liddell heading our OECD. It’s far more beneficial to New Zealand than playing politics on it,” Collins told RNZ on Tuesday.
But it’s a complicated picture. Liddell has lived for years in the US and, given Trump’s antipathy to Europe and international organisations, his senior position on Trump’s team may well knock him out of the running.
Trump’s defeat in the presidential elections – yes, we too say Joe Biden has won the presidential election – won’t help either.
There are 10 candidates to succeed Mexico’s Angel Guria and assume the top slot from June 1 next year. The difficulty for NZ is that one of the leading candidates is Australia’s Mathias Cormann, who has resigned his portfolio of finance minister in the Morrison Government in Canberra to seek the job.
There is a long-standing semi-official agreement between Canberra and Wellington that when a candidate from one country seeks an international slot, then the other government will back him or her. So, the NZ Govt is obliged to back Cormann.
That’s hard luck for Liddell, who anyway has lived out of NZ for some years before joining the Trump administration.
The candidates for the five-year term are Mathias Cormann (Australia), Anna Diamantopoulou (Greece), Vladimír Dlouhý (Czech Republic), Philipp Hildebrand (Switzerland), Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonia), Ulrik V. Knudsen (Denmark), Michał Kurtyka (Poland), Christopher Liddell (United States), Cecilia Malmström (Sweden) and William Morneau (Canada).
Some feel Cormann’s chances are limited since he comes from a climate-sceptic government and the OECD wants to prioritise the fight against climate change.
There are two former European Commissioners on the list, Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström, who held the trade portfolio, and Greece’s Anna Diamantopoulou, who was responsible for labour and social affairs.
Insiders believe they will have the inside running, more probably Malmström, who was well-regarded during her time at the EU. Also, there is a feeling that Europe deserves a turn since the last two DGs have come from Mexico and Canada.
Guria, a former Mexican minister, has been in the job for 10 years and many feel the OECD has fallen behind other multinational organisations in terms of influence, so a former hard-nosed former EU commissioner might be the best pick.
Having made a presentation to OECD heads of government delegations, each will now be interviewed by member countries. The chair of the selection committee, dean of the OECD diplomatic corps, Britain’s Christopher Sharrock, will carry out confidential consultations with individual members to narrow the field and identify the candidate around whom consensus can be built for appointment.