Australia’s Cormann Beats Malmstrom in Race to Lead OECD

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.

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.

Australia’s Cormann Beats Malmstrom in Race to Lead OECD

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.

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.

Australia’s Cormann Beats Malmstrom in Race to Lead OECD

Christopher Sharrock, the U.K. 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.

Australia’s Cormann Beats Malmstrom in Race to Lead OECD

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