A Study of Organisational Adaptation

Peter Carroll and Aynsley Kellow

The book reveals, for the first time, the origins, growth and complex role of the OECD as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, showing how it has adapted – for the most part successfully – to the changing needs of its members, both large and small.

Chapter 6: The OECD in the 1980s: Changing Roles and Influence

Peter Carroll and Aynsley Kellow

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics, law - academic, international economic law, trade law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


Four linked issues dominated the agenda of the OECD in the 1980s: oil, inflation, trade and the impact of what was described as the ‘new protectionism’ and structural adjustment, though their causes reached back into the 1970s. The second oil crisis of 1979, for example, exacerbated already high levels of inflation, falling levels of economic growth and high unemployment. Structural adjustment, as noted in the previous chapter, had its origins in the 1970s but gained greater strength in the 1980s, particularly its positive adjustment variant, somewhat of a catch-all phrase referring to a series of loosely linked measures aimed at freeing up markets from what were increasingly seen by OECD members as unnecessary regulatory constraints and market interventions. The new protectionism, in turn, had its origins in the 1960s and 1970s, consisting largely of increases in non-tariff protectionism, which, somewhat ironically, grew rapidly as tariff barriers fell. Its growth triggered an increasing concern for international trade among OECD members, who saw the further freeing up of trade as a vital means for restoring economic growth as the decade progressed, focused on the Uruguay Round negotiations. Viewed against this background it is not surprising that much of the OECD’s work came to focus on the analysis of these issues and a series of attempts to gain agreements among its members as to appropriate, concerted policy responses. In this chapter the aim is to illustrate the extent and nature of this work by focusing on: one, the international economic policy agreements reached...

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