World Bank economist Sawako Takeuchi, vying with five other candidates for the leadership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has vowed to bring in Asian perspectives to reform the Paris-based body.
Takeuchi, formerly an adviser to the prime minister on economic strategy, told reporters recently the OECD’s competitiveness as an international body has been declining while the Asia-Pacific region, involving Japan, China and the U.S., has taken center stage in business transactions since the 1990s.
“The OECD started as a body for European economic cooperation and 23 out of the 30 current members are European countries,” she said, adding that geopolitically speaking, the entity is disproportionately represented.
“I’d like to make it a global institution and strengthen its investigation and analysis capacity by injecting a viewpoint on how Asian economic transactions will impact the global economy,” Takeuchi said.
Japan decided July 15 to recommend Takeuchi, 53, currently an economist at the World Bank’s East Asia and Pacific Region Urban Sector Development Unit, as a candidate to succeed Donald Johnston of Canada as OECD secretary general.
She will deliver a presentation in early October before the representatives of the 30 OECD members together with the five other candidates — Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka, former South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Han Seung Soo, former Mexican Foreign and Finance Minister Angel Gurria, former French Finance Minister Alain Madelin and former Australian competition regulator Alan Fels.
Johnston’s second five-year term will expire next May.
The OECD members are expected to pick his successor by consensus on Dec. 1, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Takeuchi said she plans to emphasize her age as well as her expertise in areas that include finance and cutting-edge technologies.
“I am still in my 50s. Considering that the past secretaries general have occupied the top post for about 10 years, younger candidates, including myself, may have an advantage,” she said.
The economist also said she has had an ambition to assume the leadership post at international organizations since her 20s and made preparations, including mastering English and French, majoring in economics and engineering, and building up careers both in Japan and abroad.
As the only female candidate, Takeuchi is hoping to provide a positive impact on the recruitment of female staff at the OECD and encourage Japanese women to apply for jobs at international organizations.
“The OECD’s female employment level is extremely low. Being a woman, I hope I can give priorities to tackling such issues as welfare and nursing,” she said. “But I don’t necessarily aim to be selected (as the secretary general) under affirmative action.”
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