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Agence France Presse

August 18, 2001

Strong objections from Pacific leaders to anti-tax haven moves

 Pacific leaders Saturday "strongly condemned" anti tax haven moves by the worlds rich powers, saying it was the island nations sovereign right to establish tax regimes of their own choosing.

The defiant note by the 16-nation Pacific Forum came in an otherwise lightweight communique issued after two days of meetings.

Four leaders, including Australia and Papua New Guinea, stayed away from the summit. In the communique, leaders also expressed concern over violence in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, urged the United States to re-consider its position on the Kyoto Protocol and agreed in principle to establish a Pacific free trade zone.

The leaders urged governments to address traditional land issues, expressed concern over nuclear waste shipments across the Pacific, and agreed to keep pushing for a South Pacific whale sanctuary.

Nauru, which hosted the forum, is under heavy international criticism for its role as an off-shore banker for the Russian mafia.

Along with the Philippines and Russia it is facing a September 30 deadline to pass anti money laundering legislation or face sanctions.

Other forum members -- Cook Islands, Niue, Marshall Islands and Vanuatu -- are facing sanctions by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which has a "harmful tax" initiative underway against tax havens it considers do not comply with its standards.

The communique questioned the OECDs right to take that action.

"Leaders reaffirmed the sovereign right of nations to establish domestic tax regimes of their own design and choosing," it said.

The leaders called for a "cooperative framework" within which countries could work together to address transparency, capacity building and appropriate information exchange in relation to tax matters.

The communique said they recognised the needs of both developing and developed countries.

"They also strongly objected to the creation of any 'black list' by the OECD prior to reaching a negotiated agreement."

However, leaders expressed concern that their own membership had failed to follow up on their own decade-old Honiara Declaration on international crime. The need for action was "more acute" now.

"There is clear evidence of serious transnational crime moving into the region and posing serious threats to the sovereignty, security and economic integrity of forum members," the communique said.

In other areas, the leaders endorsed concern in the region about climate change and the need to seek international understanding of the unique circumstances of Pacific Island countries, especially low lying islands.

They backed the Kyoto Protocol, saying it was a significant first step forward, noting that its implementation would result in real and measurable reductions in greenhouse gases.

"Leaders noted the concerns expressed by most members over the United States intention not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and agreed that the forum urge the United States to reconsider its position and ratify the Kyoto Protocol," the communique said.

The leaders also expressed "continuing concern" at the violence in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya.

"(Leaders) encouraged the Indonesian government, the sovereign authority, to ensure that the voices of all parties in the province are heard in order to achieve a peaceful resolution of their differences."

They welcomed recent special autonomy proposals put to the Indonesian parliament.

"They also urged all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents in Irian Jaya (West Papua). Forum Leaders agreed to follow closely developments in the province."

 

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