In the vanguard of globalization: The OECD and international capital liberalization

David Howarth*, Tal Sadeh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A survey of the literature on the political economy of global financial liberalization shows how little has been written on the role of the OECD, and how the Principal-Agent (PA) theory, complemented by Constructivist tools, can be applied helpfully to analyse this process. We show that the OECD's Committee on Capital Movements and Invisible Transactions (CMIT) played an entrepreneurial role in encouraging the liberalization of capital flows. In particular, we argue that the CMIT slipped by acting beyond its core delegation roles and against the preferences of the OECD member states' governments. This was done by discussing and seeking to expand the list of issue areas on which controls should be lifted to include short-term capital movements and the right of establishment, to adopt an extended understanding of reciprocity, and to eliminate a range of additional discriminatory measures on capital flows. Acting as institutional entrepreneurs, the CMIT members took advantage of the overlap among the networks in which they were engaged to spread their ideas to the member states. The CMIT's work affected the member states' willingness to make irrevocable, multilateral commitments through a combination of peer pressure and vertical institutional interconnectedness. Through the work of the CMIT, the OECD was an important actor in capital liberalization, in addition to the role played by other international organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-645
Number of pages24
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2011


FundersFunder number
Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland
European Commission


    • Constructivism
    • Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
    • Principal-Agent Theory
    • capital liberalization
    • globalization
    • international organizations


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