Angel Gurria was Mexico's finance minister in the late 1990s when he joined his Canadian counterpart, Paul Martin, in spearheading the creation of a G20 group of finance ministers to promote global financial and economic stability in the wake of the Asian currency and financial crisis.
As secretary-general of the OECD, he has pushed for global action through the G20 on a variety of tax, governance, labour market, environmental, trade and investment issues.
"These meetings are where you paper over [differences]and you find the common elements. But it's also where you recognize that when you have choices, it becomes more difficult to agree on what to do," Mr. Gurria told The Globe and Mail Friday.
Leaders also see that there may be different solutions for different countries, each of which may be as legitimate as the next, he said.
So will the G20 leaders emerge from this summit agreeing to disagree on the most divisive issues, such as a global bank tax?
That, he said, is not what a G20 meeting is supposed to be about. "They always go beyond that," he said, noting that considerable work gets done by government officials working behind the scenes in the months leading up to a summit, "Don't underestimate the importance of … deadlines."
His most recent example: China's decisions to slightly revalue the yuan just days before the Toronto meeting.
"Work gets completed and people make decisions, all in the expectation of being ready for the meeting."
He noted that leading up to the last meeting in London, the OECD was able to make more progress on its goal of eliminating tax evasion havens than in the previous 12 years.
Asked about the controversial bank tax proposal, Mr. Gurria said: "Is it not necessary to deal with the question of capital first?"
Some leaders are trying to deal with the issue of what happens if we face another financial crisis and how the world creates an insurance fund to bail out troubled institutions. But others, including Mr. Gurria, argue that the focus should be on how to avoid such messes by insisting that institutions themselves hold "strong, real, transparent capital, and maybe some buffers."
On the question of austerity versus economic growth, Mr. Gurria argues that countries can bring down high fiscal deficits and reduce debt without hurting growth prospects, provided they use a thin knife for their cuts and avoid tampering with such money earmarked for education, innovation and job growth.
Every government needs a fiscal consolidation strategy, he said. The important thing is to make the policy transparent and to adopt "growth-friendly budget adjustments."