France, Hong Kong sign tax deal

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France and Hong Kong on Thursday signed an agreement to boost the exchange of tax data in a bid to strengthen trade ties between them.

"The signature of this agreement on exchange of (tax) information attests to the determination" of the parties "to share information in all transparency, according to the standards of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development," French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told journalists.

"A secure, predictable and clear tax framework is favourable to investment," she said.

Lagarde signed the accord, the fruit of a decade's worth of negotiations, with Hong Kong trade chief John Tsang.

"Many French companies have made Hong Kong their hub for a number of countries in Asia," Lagarde said, citing the food, manufacturing and -- from now on -- the financial services sectors.

She also noted that three Hong Kong hotel chains were soon to open facilities in Paris.

Tsang said French companies had done well in Hong Kong, notably in banking, finance, transportation, media and tourism.

He added that the accord signed Thursday reflected Hong Kong's commitment to tax information transparency.

The finance ministry said in a statement Wednesday that negotiations on the deal "were able to be completed after Hong Kong decided to conform to international standards relative to the exchange of tax information."

It said talks had foundered until 2009 on the exchange of data on tax fraud.

The obstacle was overcome in talks last year in the Group of 20 developed and developing nations, with Hong Kong adhering to a convention model drafted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that is considered to be particularly strict, the ministry statement said.

© 2010 AFP

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