Mathias Cormann confirmed as frontrunner for OECD post following candidate cull

London: Mathias Cormann has defied critics who hoped the Coalition's climate change policies would quickly sink his bid to lead a key global economic body, with the former senator emerging as a frontrunner following a cull of candidates.

Cormann, a Liberal Party powerbroker and Australia's longest-serving finance minister, left the Senate last year to campaign for the position of secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Former finance minister Mathias Cormann is running to become the OECD secretary-general.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Sources at the Paris-based OECD told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that the 10 candidates vying for the job had been put into three groups based on soundings from the OECD's 38 member countries.

Cormann has been listed in the group with the strongest level of support, alongside Sweden's candidate Cecilia Malmström and the Swiss nominee Philipp Hildebrand.

The next group, with "good" support, included candidates from Canada, the United States, Denmark and Greece. This group included the Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who some observers believed was a threat to Cormann's chances.

Candidates from the Czech Republic and Poland had the lowest support and have withdrawn from the race.

The result suggests Cormann's vision for the OECD is resonating and that the strategy of lobbying member countries in person paid off.

Labor – which has offered backing to Cormann's campaign – criticised the government for letting the ex-politician use a Royal Australian Air Force jet to fly around Europe and South America in November and December and rally support.

Environment groups also claimed the Coalition's record on climate change would make Cormann an unpopular choice to lead the OECD.

The OECD emerged from the post-war Marshall Plan and plays a key role in shaping the economic agenda. Its 38 members represent more than 60 per cent of global GDP.

It is also the likely venue for a breakthrough on a new tax on multinational tech giants that could reap up to $135 billion in extra revenue for 137 governments.



Headquartered in a sprawling compound in central Paris, the OECD has an annual budget of €386 million ($606 million), staff of more than 3500 and a seat at G20 meetings.

    Cormann, who was born in Belgium and is fluent in German, French and Flemish, is pitching himself as a bridge between Europe's traditional economies and the increasingly important Asia-Pacific markets. He spent 25 years in Europe before moving to Australia in 1996.

    Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised Cormann's bid during a congratulatory November telephone call with President-elect Joe Biden in the hope Australia can secure US support for the secretary-general campaign.

    America's candidate, Chris Liddell, is Donald Trump's deputy chief of staff and a dual citizen of New Zealand. However he has struggled to get enough support to be a serious contender and will almost certainly be eliminated in the next cull later this month.

    New Zealand's opposition leader Judith Collins withdrew her party's support for Liddell's candidacy, citing last week's riot at the US Captiol.

    "Mr Liddell's ties to the Trump administration cannot be overlooked here, making it difficult to see how he would be suitable to uphold the OECD's strong commitment to democracy," she said.

    More candidates will be eliminated in late January and early February before a winner is picked via consensus in early March. The five-year post will commence mid-year.

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