Tax havens will be shunned by G20 powers: Sarkozy

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Friday that tax havens would be shunned by the international community, naming Switzerland among countries he said had not done enough to end banking secrecy.

"We don't want any more tax havens. Our message is clear," Sarkozy said at the end of the G20 summit in Cannes.

Sarkozy named 11 countries that fail to meet transparency standards -- Antigua, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Panama, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Vanuata, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

"Countries that remain tax havens ... will be shunned by the international community," he warned.

The G20 will now publish an updated list of uncooperative tax havens at each of its summits, he added.

The news was welcomed by non-government organisations campaigning for an end to tax havens, which they say cost governments billions of dollars in tax income that could be used to help the poor.

But Oxfam France said the G20 list would have no effect unless it was followed up by strong sanctions on the guilty parties.

"This is a new list to add to all the lists we have seen before of tax havens," the group said in a statement.

"Oxfam France says that all these lists count for nothing unless tough sanctions fall on these territories and those who make use of them.

"After three years of fighting against tax havens, the G20 sadly does not have the courage to impose transparency on the multinational companies who are the main culprits in the loss of revenue to developing countries."

However the largest alliance of US NGOs, InterAction, said progress on tax havens was one positive outcome of a Cannes summit notably short of concrete action to ease the burden of the financial crisis on the world's poor.

InterAction "welcomed the public shaming of 11 countries listed as tax havens, including Panama, Barbados and the Seychelles," it said in a statement.

For its part Christian Aid said the tax haven move was among the "important decisions" taken at the summit.

The group's economic justice adviser David McNair said the decision showed that "the first shoots of political will" now existed to close tax loopholes that cost developing countries around $160 billion a year in lost tax revenue.

On a related issue, Sarkozy expressed hopes that a financial transaction tax could be put in place in European Union countries as soon as 2012,

European Commission proposals for such a tax will be considered by member countries at the beginning of 2012, said Sarkozy, promising that France "will battle" that they be implemented by the end of next year.

Noting that France "was alone when it started the battle" for the tax, Sarkozy pointed out that other countries, including Germany, Spain, Argentina and South Africa now agree to the proposed levy.

France has been pushing for a small tax on financial transactions as a mechanism to force markets to help pay for government efforts to rescue debt-ridden economies.

However, the scheme has run into opposition from the United States, Canada, Russia, Australia and China -- although Sarkozy indicated following talks with President Barack Obama that US objections were softening.

© 2011 AFP

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