Chirac urges airline tax to aid Africa

28th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

TOKYO, March 28 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac called Monday for a tax on airline fuel and tickets by the end of the year to fight epidemics in Africa in what could be a test for a more far-reaching tax on financial transactions.

TOKYO, March 28 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac called Monday for a tax on airline fuel and tickets by the end of the year to fight epidemics in Africa in what could be a test for a more far-reaching tax on financial transactions.

Chirac made his proposal at the end of a three-day visit to Japan, which was marked by a dispute over his push to lift a European Union embargo on selling weapons to China.

"France and Germany together are calling for the creation by the end of the year, along with all countries that wish, for a first international solidarity tax on kerosene and airline tickets to fund the fight against AIDS and the great pandemics that are decimating Africa," Chirac said.

"More than three million lives saved each year: that's what is at stake," Chirac told a French-Japanese economic forum in Tokyo.

The French leader said he presented the idea during talks Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and wanted to take it forward at the July Group of Eight summit in Scotland and the September summit of the United Nations in New York.

"I hope strongly that we can accomplish these goals together in the upcoming G8 and United Nations summits," Chirac said.

The idea could serve as a test-bed for more far-reaching ideas to fund international development or the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In January, Chirac listed a number of options before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, including a "contribution" on international financial transactions or a tax on capital movements in or out of countries with secretive banking practices.

The idea is supported by Germany, Spain, Brazil and Chile. But the United States is firmly opposed and Japan is sceptical, as is much of the international business community.

The proposals are variations of the so-called "Tobin Tax," named after American Nobel laureate James Tobin who came up with the idea in 1971, to tax capital flows as a way of reducing speculation on global markets.

Chirac delivered the address a day after disagreeing openly with Koizumi over France's push to lift an embargo on selling weapons to China, and over which country should host a revolutionary multibillion-euro nuclear reactor.

Chirac at a joint news conference Sunday defended the lifting of the ban, saying China would not be sold sensitive weapons or technology, but Koizumi stressed Japan's concerns about Beijing's growing military spending.

"We cannot understand the explanations by French President Chirac," Japan's best-selling daily, the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, said in an editorial.

"The Asia-Pacific region could lose its military balance if advanced technology of the EU were transferred to China. It would be an extremely worrying situation for Japan and the United States."

Japan and France are also at loggerheads on which of them should host a multibillion-euro nuclear project, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), meant to develop inexhaustible clean energy.

With talks deadlocked and the European Union threatening to go it alone, Chirac said he hoped an agreement "can be found quickly."

"France along with Europe hopes for Japan's participation as part of the international cooperation on ITER," Chirac told the seminar.

Chirac timed his visit to Japan to become the first foreign leader to see the World Exposition, a six-month display of technology and innovation that has the theme of sustainable development.

At the seminar on Monday, Chirac called for Japan and France to team up on sustainable development by creating "a political, but also a scientific and industrial alliance."

Chirac and his wife Bernadette closed the visit with a lunch at the palace hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. The World Expo was the main topic of conversation, an Imperial Household Agency spokesman said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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