PARIS – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Tuesday on the world’s most developed countries to take on and counter widening gaps between the rich and poor.
He told the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris that the coronavirus and climate change have exacerbated inequality between and within nations and that action must be taken to reverse the trend.
In addition to tackling those two threats, he told an OECD conference on climate and security that curbing corporate tax avoidance and ending discrimination against women and minorities are critical to improving global living conditions.
Blinken said the Biden administration is committed to addressing the root causes of inequity and inequality. His comments came as President Joe Biden is struggling to win congressional approval of major initiatives aimed at doing that.
“The data are crystal clear: both the pandemic and the climate crisis are hitting underserved populations in our societies hardest,” Blinken said. He urged members of the OECD, which was spawned from the post-WWII Marshall Plan that rebuilt much of war-ravaged Europe, to look at their own culpability for the situation.
“We all bear some responsibility for this," Blinken said. “For decades, our member countries measured economic success chiefly in terms of rising GDP (gross domestic product) and stock markets — which don’t reflect the reality of millions of working families. Instead, our unprecedented growth has frequently come with rising inequity.”
To combat that, he said establishing a global corporate minimum tax rate would “avoid a self-defeating race to the bottom” that has arisen with countries competing to offer the lowest tax rates, which in turn has enabled large corporations “to avoid paying their fair share.”
That, Blinken said, would potentially restore an estimated $100 billion to $240 billion in lost revenue to government coffers yearly that could be invested in education, health care and environmentally friendly infrastructure.
He said discrimination against women and girls as well as LGBTQ communities is also driving inequality and hampering growth and development. He said the U.S. could be funding OECD initiatives to quantify the cost of such discrimination and look at ways to reverse it.
“At the heart of all of these efforts is the recognition that, more than ever, the true wealth of our nations is found not only in our natural resources, the strength of our militaries, the size of our populations, or the expanse of our geography, our abundance of natural resources, but in our people, and in our capacity to fully unleash their potential," Blinken said.