38 Countries Participate In Belt & Road Initiative Tax Forum As G7 Go AWOL

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New BRI Platform Discusses Covid-19 and Multilateral Trade Responses In Absence Of Global Meetings

Op/Ed by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

A Belt & Road tax discussion forum was held yesterday (June 4) bringing together 178 Participants from 38 Countries and Organisations from around the world. Participants explored ways to enhance tax cooperation among the countries and regions taking part in the Belt & Road Initiative, going over the most successful measures taken recently, to establish an environment that supports economic growth and remove all obstacles to cross-border trade and investment.

The Forum also discussed ways to collaborate on limiting the negative impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the region and the world, showcasing the experiences of participating states. The forum was held by videoconference.

The meeting was chaired by the UAE, represented by Al Bustani who had been elected Vice President of the Belt & Road Initiative Tax Administration Cooperation Forum during the first meeting of the Supervisory Board in China in April 2019.

“In light of the exceptional circumstances at the moment, and to overcome these challenges and mitigate their negative impact, numerous initiatives were launched to incentivise the national economy and support the affected sectors, coupled with additional support to minimise the effects of the restrictions on movement on most economic activities.” Al Bustani explained.

“On the same note, the UAE Cabinet approved a stimulus package to reduce the burden on businesses, support small businesses, and expedite the implementation of major government infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, the UAE Central Bank approved a second stimulus package to support credit and liquidity, to the benefit of the business sector, SMEs, and individuals. This is in addition to several support packages introduced by local governments,” he added.

“The (UAE) Federal Tax Authority has taken several measures to support businesses registered in the tax system during these difficult times, including extending tax periods for those registered for excise tax.”

The most interesting aspect about the forum is that under the Belt & Road Initiative, multiple countries participated. This is in direct contrast to the proposed G7 meetings which were scheduled to take place next week but have been postponed. Proposed G20 meetings have also been cancelled. The implication is that formal discussions that China is involved with are better organised than the existing global groupings.

There is also the aspect of common experience sharing with the Belt & Road forum, which will enhance the protection against, and promote the sharing of anti-Covid-19 measures and common experiences in providing tax relief, which again is in sharp contrast to anything thus managed by the G7.

The multi-lateral discussion of taxes – and VAT was one of the tax mechanisms discussed – is that this often leads to future tax agreements, including Free Trade. While the detail of this first Belt & Road Tax summit may be woolly – the important thing is it took place. We can expect more positive tax trends to emerge from such activities, and it is both noticeable and symbolic this took place at a time the G7 are unable to agree to meet.


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