Colombia and Lithuania join the OECD

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Paris (AFP)

Colombia and Lithuania formally joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Wednesday, becoming members of the Paris-based club of rich nations.

"This is the power of multilateralism in action as we gain in diversity and strength in search of solutions for common global challenges that work for all," said OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria at the signing ceremony in the French capital.

"The accession process has been a catalyst for impressive reforms, which have not only benefited the two countries but are also inspiring learning opportunities for other OECD members and partners facing similar challenges," he said at the body's annual meeting.

Becoming a member raises a country's economic profile and opens the possibility of deepening international ties in the fields of economy, education and social matters.

Colombia, a longtime ally of Washington, becomes the third Latin American nation to join after Chile and Mexico. Other countries in the region, including Costa Rica and Brazil, have also applied for membership.

Lithuania's OECD membership will help attract foreign investment to the Baltic eurozone economy, officials there said this week.

Lithuania is enjoying a strong economic upswing, driven by record wage growth since the 2009 financial crisis with the economy set to grow 3.2 percent this year.

But high levels of income inequality and emigration to richer western European nations remain a challenge as the shortage of skilled labour becomes an obstacle to foreign investment.

Fellow eurozone Baltic states Estonia and Latvia joined the OECD in 2010 and 2016, respectively.

The meeting, whose theme this year was "multilateralism", comes as the United States prepares to impose punitive import taxes on steel and aluminium this Friday, which will hit its allies in the OECD.