Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Sarko on tax havens at G20

Our guest blogger Martin Hearson submitted this from France:

France is in G20 fever. Last night's TV even included stand up comedy on the subject. The main questions: can Sarkozy save the Euro, and will the summit see the announcement of a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions?

The latter question took up a large part of the discussion this morning as I joined a meeting of 25 civil society representatives with Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee. Clutching his trademark freshly squeezed orange juice (the rest of us had to make do with concentrate, although the cakes were nice) the President was keen to reassure us that he was fighting hard for a tiny tax on the banks, through the European Union, though not the G20. David Cameron was the pantomime villain, the stumbling block to EU progress, he said, noting wistfully that Gordon Brown had been in favour.

On the question of whether the proceeds from any Robin Hood Tax would be devoted to development, the President was a little more circumspect, saying only that he had 'not put this question on the table yet'.

Bernard Pinaud of French NGO CCFD, representing the End Tax Haven Secrecy campaign, stressed the need for the G20 to shift up a gear on tax havens, including by supporting country-by-country reporting for multinationals. He came bearing a 40,000-strong petition in favour.

The presidential response was to note that the fight against tax haven secrecy 'makes no sense without a blacklist' of tax havens, and to assure of his support, especially on transparency for oil, gas and mining companies. “If we talk about corruption in developing countries, we have to talk about the subsidiaries of multinational companies there”, he underlined.

All of this was nice, but a little lacking in specifics for a man famed for his ability to absorb a brief just before a meeting. The next couple of days will see the publication of a slew of documents illustrating the leading role that the G20 has played under France's presidency on tax and development - but can we expect this progress to continue after the end of the year? Sarkozy said that France would use its position in the G20 Troika which unites the previous, current and next chairing country, next year to maintain progress on tax justice.

So in summary, some fine words from the G20 Chair, but the real test will be the final wording of the G20 communiqué on Friday.

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