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New Zealand Trump aide Chris Liddell pulls out of race to lead OECD

Elle Hunt in Auckland
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Chris Liddell, the New Zealand-born assistant to former president Donald Trump, has withdrawn from the race to head the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Liddell had been nominated by Trump as the US candidate to serve as secretary-general of the OECD in September, highlighting his experience in government and business.

The dual US-NZ citizen was one of Trump’s longest-serving personnel – most recently, as the White House’s deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, also tasked with overseeing the presidential transition.

But Liddell’s candidacy had been questioned in the wake of both Joe Biden’s election and the mob attack on Capitol Hill in early January, the latter also drawing a backlash from New Zealand.

The OECD confirmed in a statement that Liddell had withdrawn from consideration on Tuesday. The chair of the selection committee thanked Liddell for “his willingness to be nominated for the position, and for the spirit with which he has engaged in the process”.

Related: What next for Trump's trusty New Zealander?

There are now seven names in contention for the OECD post: former Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann; Greek politician and former European commissioner for employment and social affairs, Anna Diamantopoulou; Swiss banker, Philipp Hildebrand; Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid; the Danish-born deputy secretary general Ulrik V Knudsen; Sweden’s former European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström; and the former Canadian finance minister Bill Morneau.

Consultations will continue into next month with a decision expected in March, three months ahead of the commencement date of the five-year term. Cormann has been tipped as a possibility to draw the backing of US and Europe.

Liddell has been contacted for comment on his decision to withdraw from contention for the OECD role. Last week he told the Guardian that he “unconditionally” condemned the violent mob attacks on the Capitol, having earlier said he considered resigning.

The National and Act parties withdrew their previously enthusiastic support for Liddell as secretary general, with opposition leader Judith Collins saying Liddell’s ties to the Trump administration would compromise the OECD’s commitment to democracy.

The Greens has consistently resisted Liddell’s nomination, while Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led government has been noncommittal.

With Liddell’s role in the Trump White House – especially given the Biden administration’s reported unhappiness with the transition – limiting his scope for roles, Stuff business journalist Tom Pullar-Strecker suggested in a recent analysis that Liddell might turn to academia.

“I assume there will be universities in some states in the US that would be happy to give Liddell an academic post, given his recent proximity to the centre of power, while he writes up the memoirs of his time at the White House and gives interviews to sympathisers.

“But I’d suggest the real action has moved on.”