Archive for April, 2016

Policy Alert: Rising Powers React to Potential U.K. “Brexit” from European Union

brexit2With Britain’s June 23 referendum on whether to remain in the European Union (EU) fast approaching, debates about the future of the United Kingdom and Europe have gained attention across the world. Many observers worry about the potential economic and political consequences of Britain’s decision to exit – or “Brexit” – the EU. With polls showing the public split nearly 50-50 on the referendum, President Barack Obama traveled to Britain and urged British voters to stay in the EU. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentary from China, India, Russia, and Japan on the U.K. referendum.

CHINA

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the British public to vote in favor of a strong and united European Union. With over $61 billion in trade deals announced during Xi’s recent visit to the United Kingdom, he hoped “Britain, as an important member of the EU, can play an even more positive and constructive role in promoting the deepening development of China-EU ties.” At risk is a deal between Beijing and London in October 2015 where China would build a nuclear energy plant at Hinkley Point, the “largest inward investment in” U.K. history.

Commentators debated whether the Brexit decision could have a negative impact on growing economic ties between the United Kingdom and China. (more…)

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Policy Alert: Panama Papers Leak Proves Taxing for Rising Powers

panamapapers

On April 3, an international coalition of journalists released information on thousands of tax shelters created by the Panama-based firm Mossack Fonseca. Global reactions to the leak of over 11 million documents, also known as the Panama Papers, have been swift with condemnations directed at individuals named as shareholders and directors of the shell companies, including politicians, business leaders, athletes, and celebrities in more than 200 countries. Among them are 12 national leaders, such as the prime ministers of Iceland, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan, the presidents of Argentina and Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia. The list also links to individuals with connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

While the use of these offshore companies to avoid taxes at home is not illegal, they remain controversial to many who consider the practice as cheating taxpayers and creating opportunities for fraud, money laundering, and drug trafficking. Several countries in Eurasia were identified as hubs for this type of financial activity or saw their political leadership included in the allegations. This Policy Alert highlights reactions in China, India, Russia, Japan, and South Korea to the emerging global shell game.

CHINA

After the Panama Papers cited at least eight current and former Chinese top-ranking officials of having links to Mossack Fonseca, the Communist party ordered the country’s media outlets to censor all references to the story. Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei refused to comment on “groundless accusations” when pressed by journalists. Chinese law does not prohibit its citizens from creating overseas entities, but according to Chun Han Wong in the Wall Street Journal, party leaders are sensitive to allegations, including some directed at relatives of President Xi Jingping, that may “add fuel to perceptions of double standards in Beijing’s efforts to fight graft.”

Hong Kong was said to be home to the most active and highest number – over 2,000 – of the shell corporations set up through Mossack Fonseca. Zhang Xiaodong, named as the firm’s primary contact on the island, pushed his clients to set up offshore accounts to purchase stocks abroad due to “overseas countries’ hostility to the rising Chinese economic power.” When a media outlet did cover the leaks, its criticism was directed at foreign powers. The Global Times questioned the real motives behind the leak, which the paper said has “basic political targets,” and how the information is being spun by “the Western media” to minimize information negative to the United States and give “extra spin” to the “exposure of non-Western leaders, such as Putin.” (more…)

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