September 26, 2016

CARIFORUM SG urges objection to EU’s “blacklist”

– says Member States “compliant” with int’l tax agencies

By Alexis Rodney

Secretary General of the Forum of the Caribbean Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (CARIFORUM), Ambassador Irwin LaRoque has urged Member States to again reject the stance taken by the European Union (EU) to have them blacklisted for allegedly not cooperating on tax law enforcement with European countries.

CARIFORUM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque

CARIFORUM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque

The CARIFORUM Secretary General (SG), who is also Head of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), was at the time addressing over 16 representatives of CARIFORUM Member States who had converged at the Guyana Marriott International Hotel on Thursday for the opening ceremony of the 23rd meeting of CARIFORUM.  The SG again brought to the fore the unfair treatment being meted out to a number of regional countries, deemed by the European Union as non cooperating tax jurisdiction.
This has been happening although the countries remain compliant with international financial institutions.
“The fact is that our jurisdictions are in compliance with the institutional and regulatory standards established by the FATF [Financial Action Task Force], OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] and other international bodies”, he told the room of Caribbean representatives.
Despite this fact, LaRocque said these EU lists still exist. According to him, a new EU proposal has the potential to further complicate the lives of Caribbean people.
“This is due to the punitive measures with respect to trade with the EU and access to the EU funding being proposed to those countries which they deem as being non cooperating tax jurisdiction. LaRocque said Caricom heads have adopted a position on the matter and that is that CARIFORUM needs to resoundingly reject this unfair treatment.
“As we battle with the said CARIFORUM needs to reject this unfair treatment from the EU. This new challenge, come as a result, at the same time as we grapple with our corresponding banking situation”
Last year, Caricom had strongly objected to the decision by the European Commission to “blacklist” some Member States on the pretext that there was no cooperation on tax law enforcement. Caricom said the assertion was patently false in view of the continued efforts made by Member States to comply with the onerous and unilateral regulatory measures put forward by the OECD which sets international standards on tax cooperation.
The OECD itself has stated in correspondence to the EU on this matter that “it considers most of the countries listed as largely compliant in the area of tax information sharing.” The OECD went further when it stated: “There is nothing more that they can do in order to be considered as cooperative.”
The Caribbean Community, for which financial services are of vital economic importance, said it was forced to express its deep disappointment and grave concern at the conduct of the EU on this matter.
Meanwhile, LaRoque said a lot has happened since the last CARIFORUM meet back in December 2014. He told the gathering that they were being afforded an opportunity to reflect on the urgent priorities on which political and quality guidance must be given.
He recalled that the last meeting Member States were in the process of developing the 11thEuropean Development Fund Regional Indicative Programme with the EU.  He reported that he has since signed the Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme, valued at some €346 million with the EU.
“That agreement will provide support to CARIFORUM in areas of regional and economic cooperation, climate change, disaster management, environment and sustainable energy and crime and security. These areas are among the most critical for us in addressing our competitiveness, fostering economic growth, and sustainable development”, he told leaders
He said the programmes and projects being designed must have a positive impact on the ground for Member States. “We must also take into account the need to build capacity at the national and regional levels”, LaRoque urged, noting that the projects must be implemented in effective and efficient manner to address the developmental challenges of the Region.
“We have initiated new governance arrangement for determining programmes and projects Member States are now more involved in the projects.” This meeting, he said, offers opportunities for Member States to take stock of where they are with the CARIFORUM/EU Economic partnership agreement. This agreement comes to an end in 2020. According to the SG, the Caribbean, as part of the ACP, must have a comprehensive view on the future of the grouping. He said political and quality dialogue with the EU is important in the context of furthering the relationship.

About GuyanaTimes