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Christopher Pitches for New Role for Former Communist Countries

June 8, 1994

PARIS (AP) _ Secretary of State Warren Christopher welcomed Russia’s new role in a onetime rich-man’s club of economic giants of the world today and urged its 25 members to reach out to emerging free-market nations everywhere.

Christopher, speaking to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which began as a catalyst for Europe’s recovery after World War II, said the time has come to evolve into a global organization.

Mexico joined today, following in the footsteps of Japan, Australia and New Zealand, while Russia signed a cooperation agreement clearing the way for technical advice and analysis of its fledging, faltering free-market economy.

Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev described the accord as ″a real step forward in the future integration of our country into the world economy.″

Only last week, Western creditor nations agreed to reschedule some of Russia’s foreign debt for 1994, saving Moscow more than $7 billion in payment of its $45 billion debt to them.

The OECD’s agreement with Russia is designed to spur liberalized investment opportunities for the richer nations and expand access to the think tank’s research and analysis resources.

At the same time, negotiations to lead to membership are being initiated with Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic and Slovakia. In fact, a senior U.S. official told reporters traveling with Christopher, the OECD is exploring the possibility of China’s eventual membership.

And yet, Sir Leon Brittan, the trade chief of the 12-nation European Union, cautioned: ″We must not so widen our membership that our work becomes shallow.″

Mexico’s admission drew grumbles from Britain and Switzerland, who were concerned that its industries were not so advanced as OECD members.

But Christopher, taking an upbeat approach, said people, especially in Eastern Europe, could become disillusioned with democracy and free markets if the wealthier nations do not provide economic assistance, lower trade barriers and enhance potential for development.

″An open, creative and dynamic OECD can help enlarge the community of free and prosperous nations throughout the world,″ he said. ″The opportunity is there.″

He said the four Eastern European countries with which the OECD has decided to negotiate could form one of the world’s fastest growing economic regions. But Christopher said they need to be encouraged to build legal, tax and regulatory structures that will attract private capital.

Russia, meanwhile, will receive advice on reforming its economy, he said. And looking beyond Europe, Christopher said he hoped South Korea would follow Mexico into the membership ranks, while South Africa has emerged as a source of ″healing and hope″ in Africa.

″There is no reason why our institutions or our aspirations should stop at the old frontiers of the Cold War,″ Christopher said.

The 47-year-old organization was designed initially to coordinate the Marshall Plan, the vast U.S. recovery effort that helped Germany to construct a powerful economy after its defeat in World War II.

One of OECD’s new goals is to promote reform of labor standards and environmental policies in emerging democracies, said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the process of expansion, he said, it is losing its identification as ″the world’s white, rich man’s club.″

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