Financial transactions tax: something stirring in Europe and the US
The campaign for a financial transactions tax is a bit off and on, but the Greek crisis has given it a major boost – especially in Germany – and now the EU Finance Ministers have joined the call, with their most forthright statement yet. The Financial Times‘ Tony Barber reports that “eurozone ministers, some of whom have spoken harshly about the role of financial markets in the debt crisis, made clear they would press ahead with their campaign to persuade the US and other countries to impose a tax on global financial transactions”. Luxemburg’s Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker said:
“We shall advocate more global taxation on financial transactions.”
The idea of a Robin Hood Tax goes in and out of favour with world leaders, and clearly there is a complex dance going on, with those leaders sending out persistently ambiguous signals. Last autumn, Gordon Brown seized the G20 agenda with his call for an FTT, but the IMF rubbished the idea. In March, the European Parliament signed up, but the European Commission signalled scepticism. In April, the IMF was predicted to be about to sound the FTT’s death knell – but it said FTTs were feasible and breathed life into a demand that the ‘don’t mention the deficit’ British General Election had tried to ignore. Again, in early May, the tide seemed to ebb away, with the Canadian Government, key because it chairs the G8 and the next G20 summit, leading the opposition – Canadian Ministers were out in force on Tuesday around the world arguing against.
But the campaign won’t go away, and today’s global day of action will demonstrate that in the world of civil society, the campaign is building and building. Today, the French campaign is launched, with support from – as in so many other countries – churches, unions, NGOs and environmentalists. On Monday, US campaigners, with unions in the forefront, invaded the citadel of Washington lobbyists, K Street. As cuts come closer and politicians start talking about tax rises, how long will the finance sector be able to escape being made to pay its fair share?