Markell confirmed for international trade post
WASHINGTON – Former Gov. Jack Markell was confirmed Friday as the ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), marking the most high-profile state appointment to the Biden administration.
The OECD is a 60-year-old, Paris-based intergovernmental economic organization tasked with stimulating economic progress and world trade. It currently has 38 members, including all of North America, western Europe, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, among others.
Markell’s appointment as the U.S. representative to the body – the first permanent official in five years – comes at one of its most prominent times, as the OECD recently completed negotiations for a global minimum corporate tax rate. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also advocated for the measure, which would prevent companies from relocating to wherever they can find the lowest rates, exacerbating a so-called “race to the bottom” for countries looking to offshore profits in tax havens.
Rather than taxing a company where its operations are located, the new rules would allow countries to tax a company where its services are sold, most dramatically impacting American tech firms with global presences, like Google, Apple, and Facebook – all of which headquartered their European operations in Ireland to take advantage of the country’s 12.5% tax rate.
The OECD has been negotiating the measure for several years, and at the recent G20 Summit in Rome, world leaders formally agreed to a global minimum tax of 15% on business profits. The agreement, however, would still need to be approved by Congress for American participation, which will prove to be a tall task considering the slim Democratic majorities.
His confirmation to the OECD nearly six months after his nomination came via a voice vote, meaning that an individual roll call was not done. U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (D-Del.) had criticized their Republican colleagues earlier in the week for blocking 61 nominees to the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and several multilateral development banks who had already been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including Markell.
Both have known the former governor for decades and heralded his ultimate appointment in Friday statements.
“He’s someone who senators from both sides of the aisle trust to serve as a steward for American interests abroad. I’m confident that Jack will serve the United States with great distinction as our top diplomat to the OECD,” Carper said.
“Jack Markell is a dedicated and capable public servant with the experience, intelligence, and character to serve admirably as our ambassador to the OECD,” Coons added.
Markell served as governor from 2009 to 2017, overseeing Delaware’s response to the Great Recession. While governor he also served as chair of the National Governors Association, president of the Council of State Governments, and chair of the Democratic Governors Association. Prior to being elected governor, he served as state treasurer for a decade from 1999 to 2009.
Since leaving elected office, Markell has operated his own consulting firm, raised money for charity via his passion for bike riding, and even dabbled in poetry and music production. His professional career before public office included stints as senior vice president at both Comcast Corp. and Nextel Communications. He earned a bachelor’s degree in development studies and economics at Brown University and an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago.
In September testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Markell said, “The OECD is more important now than ever before given the democratic community’s ongoing competition with the world’s authoritarian regimes,” citing specifically China and Russia. He emphasized the importance of promoting free market principles around the world.
Markell also noted how the OECD role would be an honor to a grandson of immigrants, noting his grandparents left Belarus, Latvia, and Lithuania at the turn of the 20th century seeking a better life in the United States.
“It would have been beyond my grandparents’ imagination when they left Eastern Europe that their grandson would have the opportunity to serve Delaware as governor and then, potentially, our country, as the U.S. representative to a multilateral institution that fosters prosperity for all. They came to the United States in the first place seeking exactly that. It would be an extraordinary honor to play a small part in shaping policies that provide those same benefits for future generations,” he said.
A friend and confidant of the president, Biden tapped Markell in September to oversee the resettlement of Afghan refugees in the United States after pulling the military out of Afghanistan. The role, referred to as the White House Operation Allies Welcome Coordinator, coordinates the Biden administration’s resettlement policy development and engages with state and local governments, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to support the resettlement of Afghan evacuees.
The Office of Afghan Resettlement at the White House National Security Council said in Saturday statement that Markell would be leaving for his OECD post within the next month, and that a number of White House officials would continue the office’s mission after his departure. To date, more than 50,000 Afghans have been relocated to the U.S. through its assistance.