Leader Profile: Heiner Flassbeck, Head of Globalization and Development Strategies, UNCTAD

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was created in in 1964 in the face of growing concerns about the role of developing countries in international trade. Heiner Flassbeck heads the Department of Globalization and Development Strategies.

The original UNCTAD, held in Geneva, was the first full-fledged conference specifically devoted to trade and developing countries. As foreign direct investment flows have become a major component of globalization in recent years, the programs of UNCTAD have changed to reflect this. The Globalization and Development Strategies program includes four key areas: (1) assistance to the Palestinian people, (2) debt management, (3) development of Africa, and (4) trade and development reporting. This latter role includes developing a global dialogue on trade and globalization. "Competition is constructive among companies and states if it is a competition for the highest level of productivity. But it is destructive if it is competition in belt-tightening i.e., competition which aims simply at the reduction of costs by cutting expenditure without increasing the efficiency of the whole economic system. Competition cannot be efficient for the benefit of society unless the competitive conditions for companies are comparable and sufficiently stable", he explained.

In recent years China has proven to be the most rapidly expanding economy and a new force in the global market. Heiner has frequently aired his support for controlled interventions in economies and last year was vocal in his opposition to unpegging the Yuan from the US dollar. "China shouldn't float its currency. It shouldn't give in to the international pressure because the result may be totally uncontrollable", he asserted, adding that such a move could create a massive financial meltdown similar to that seen in Latin America in 2001.

A German national, Heiner studied Economics at the University of the Saarland and has a doctorate in Economics from the Free University of Berlin. He has worked for the German Council of Economic Experts, the Federal Ministry of Economics, the German Institute for Economic Research and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1998 he was appointed State Secretary (Vice Minister) at the German Federal Ministry of Finance. He began working with UNCTAD in 2002 and took up his current position in August 2003.

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