April 14, 2009

This Tax Day, Tell Congress No FTA with Tax Haven Panama

Tell Congress: No FTA with tax-haven country Panama

It's almost tax day... you have to pay up, but big corporations can get off the hook thanks to tax havens like Panama. Tell Congress no FTA with tax haven Panama!

Dear Fair Trade Supporter,

As millions of Americans rush to complete their taxes, some administration officials are pushing to "rapidly" approve a leftover Bush NAFTA deal with Panama – a nation notorious for helping corporations escape paying their fair share.

Recently, we told you how AIG is suing U.S. taxpayers to recover $306 million it paid in back taxes related to an AIG-linked corporation hosted in tax haven Panama. The latest? Panama was just featured on a key list of countries who have long promised to adopt international tax norms, but have systematically refused to do so.

Tell your members of Congress that you are outraged that some administration officials would even consider moving Bush's FTA with tax haven Panama. Remind them of President Obama's pledge to renegotiate NAFTA and create a new American trade model that actually benefits us.

Just the other day, Obama's lead staffer for this week's Summit of the Americas, Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, told a corporate audience in Washington that the administration wants to move "rapidly" on the Panama FTA.

As if any NAFTA expansion was not already a terrible idea, this particular deal would eviscerate efforts now underway to end Panama's tax-haven, banking secrecy and money laundering outrages. So, we should all be ready for the next foreseeable move by Panama, which is panicked about growing focus on its shady dealings: expect Panama to announce sham tax-haven reforms. Just recently three European tax-haven nations got great press for announcing reforms that amount to nothing. Andorra, Liechtenstein and Switzerland (ALS) announced banking secrecy 'reforms' so laden with loopholes that the proposal can only be compared to Swiss cheese.

Make sure Congress knows not to accept any Swiss cheese tax-haven reforms from Panama!

Even if these countries adopted 100 percent of the most ambitious version of the ALS plan, Panama and other tax havens would maintain the awful status quo – a world full of countries that only cooperate with the U.S. authorities under the most restrictive of situations, multinationals searching the globe to avoid paying taxes and tons of dirty money remaining in the financial system.

As if that weren't bad enough, Panama is consistently on the State Department's list of countries of primary concern for drug-related money laundering. Letting Panama off the hook and passing the Bush hangover FTA would make further attempts to crack down on its banking secrecy and money laundering even harder. According to a 2009 State Department report:

"Major Colombian and Mexican drug cartels as well as Colombian illegal armed groups use Panama for drug trafficking and money laundering purposes."

Despite these well-known links to drug cartels, some in the Obama administration and Congress are still looking to rush through the Bush hangover NAFTA agreement.

Send an email to your members of Congress today telling them to reject the Panama FTA or any NAFTA-style "trade" agreement – much less one that limits our ability to crack down on tax havens and money laundering. Then, tell a friend!

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Thank you for all you do,
Bill Holland, Deputy Director
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division

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