The weakness of multilateral cooperation was evident at the meetings of the Group of 20 and the Bretton Woods institutions in Washington. The limited international cooperation contrasts with the ambitious domestic policies adopted by some developed countries, and in particular the United States, to manage their crisis. The big losers will be the emerging countries, for whom cooperation has so far been minimal.
By Veronica Grondona, Abdul Muheet Chowdhary, Daniel Uribe
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Inclusive Framework is considering a two-pillar approach on taxing the digital economy. Preliminary estimates about the impact of its recommendations show a modest increase in corporate income tax collection, the benefits of which are expected to go mostly to the developed countries. At the same time, there is a rise in national measures on taxing the digital economy, a move spurred by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also fully within the rights of countries under international law, despite labels of ‘unilateralism’. This research paper highlights the direct tax measures being taken by various countries and finds three key approaches to tax the digital economy: (1) digital service taxes; (2) nexus rules based on significant economic presence ;(3) withholding tax on digital transactions.
Taxing the Digital Economy to Fund the COVID-19 Response
By Abdul Muheet Chowdhary and Daniel Uribe Teran
The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened global economic growth, raising pressures on revenue authorities to fund the fiscal stimulus necessary to contain the spread of the virus and provide income support to affected households. Accordingly, countries are taking national measures to tax the digital economy as highly digitalized businesses are seeing a rise in sales, subscribers and profits owing to the work from home lockdown measures. The three main policy responses undertaken are digital service taxes, nexus rules based on significant economic presence and withholding taxes on digital transactions. These are briefly summarized here and elaborated in detail in a forthcoming research paper by the South Centre Tax Initiative (SCTI).
El presente documento realiza un estudio preliminar del capítulo XX relativo a propiedad intelectual del Acuerdo MERCOSUR – UE de libre comercio, MERCOSUR logró en este capítulo que la UE hiciera tabla rasa respecto de los anteriores acuerdos de libre comercio. Se arribó a un resultado equilibrado, que refleja las concesiones de ambas partes.
South Centre Statement to the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development
Four years after its adoption, Agenda 2030, “Transforming Our World,” the United Nations’ (UN) most recent and most ambitious development agenda, is off-track. Various estimates of the spending needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) range from $1 to $3 trillion. Domestically mobilized resources are critical to achieve these goals. A main source of the inadequate scale of public revenues are shortfalls in corporate tax collection, which are largely explained by international corporations hosted by or doing businesses in developing countries that take advantage of facilities offered by the international tax standards and practices to avoid full payment of taxes in those countries. A substantive global reform process involving a variety of multilateral platforms is underway. The question is not whether the system of global tax standards and practices will change, but in what direction it will change. Drawing lessons from the developing country context will be critical if the ongoing process of global tax reform will benefit developing countries and achieve substantial success in generating the income needed to effectively attain the SDGs.
Intellectual Property under the Scrutiny of Investor-State Tribunals
Legitimacy and New Challenges
By Clara Ducimetière
In 2009, C.S. Gibson was suggesting that: “With this early coverage of intellectual property in BITs, it is perhaps surprising that there has yet to be a publicly reported decision concerning an IPR-centered investment dispute. Given the trajectory of the modern economy, however, in which foreign investments reflect an increasing concentration of intellectual capital invested in knowledge goods protected by IPRs, this could soon change”. A couple of years later, the first investment cases dealing with IP issues were made public.
In this context, this paper first addresses the conditions that have to be fulfilled in order to bring intellectual property claims in investment arbitration, by touching upon the question of the definition of an investment in theory and in practice. It also tries to shed light on some of the implications of recent arbitral awards touching upon this interaction between intellectual property and investment protection, from a legal and regulatory perspective.
On the other hand, the specific situation of the European Union is scrutinized, and in particular the project put forward by the European Commission to adapt the dispute settlement system for the protection of investments.
Impacts of Unilateral Coercive Measures in Developing Countries: the need to end the US embargo on Cuba
By Vicente Paolo Yu and Adriano José Timossi
On 1 November 2018, the 193 Member States of the United Nations (UN) held the twenty-seventh consecutive annual vote of the General Assembly on a resolution entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.” The resolution was adopted with a near unanimous vote of 189 in favor, 2 abstentions (Ukraine and Moldova) and 2 against (United States of America and Israel). Before the vote and for the first time since the resolution was submitted in 1992, the US presented a set of eight proposed amendments to be considered by the 193 Member States, which were all rejected.
The present policy brief is a summary of the input prepared by the South Centre as a contribution to the 2019 report of the Secretary-General with respect to the imposition of unilateral economic, finance and trade measures by one State against another that is prepared pursuant to UN General Assembly Resolution 73/8.
Legitimacy Concerns of the Proposed Multilateral Investment Court: Is Democracy Possible?
By José Manuel Alvarez Zárate
Growing concerns in Europe about international investment regimes and investor-state dispute settlement systems pushed the European Union into pursuing the creation of an investment court system and a multilateral investment court. The European Union (EU) started this reform through the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement, and by direct persuasion of other countries to start negotiations at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. Visible reasons for the change include concerns over the perception of a lack of transparency, coherence, and arbitrators’ partiality, all of which diminish the legitimacy of the multilateral investment court. Other reasons might be laid on the budgetary risks of more than 213 claims against EU countries. To address these legitimacy concerns, the EU wants to replace traditional party-appointed arbitrators with a two-tiered investment tribunal system comprised by a roster of members selected by the state parties on the treaty. This Essay argues that the creation of the multilateral investment court needs to follow democratic principles in order to be legitimate. History has shown us that the EU has abused its power in the past when implementing resolution systems. Foregoing negotiation, comment by member nations, and implementing a tribunal at its own behest has shown this. The EU multilateral investment court proposal has legitimacy deficiencies because the EU has relied on its power to impose its views so far, i.e. its proposal was not previously negotiated multilaterally amongst other member nations. It is thus possible that the appointment of the future judges to this court will likely be subject to the political constraints and veto that the International Court of Justice or World Trade Organization appointments suffer today. This could leave small economies at a disadvantage because they might be subject to permanent, politically biased judges. A superior solution would be to adopt better arbitrator disqualification rules, clear interpretation directives to avoid law creation, and stricter arbitrator qualifications.
Tax Haven Listing in Multiple Hues: Blind, Winking or Conniving?
By Jahanzeb Akhtar and Verónica Grondona
Tax havens are among the biggest challenges faced by developing countries in achieving their national development goals. States, international organisations, multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations have all made several efforts at compiling ‘lists’ of tax havens at the multilateral and national levels, with varying levels of seriousness and outcomes. This research paper examines these efforts by analysing the objectivity of criteria used and the clarity of the final outcome in a comparative manner. The paper is organized into four sections dealing with the tax haven blacklisting by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries of the South, the European Union (EU) and an analysis across lists. The concluding section offers some suggestions.
US’ Section 301 Actions: Why They are Illegitimate and Misguided
By Aileen Kwa and Peter Lunenborg
This research paper examines the US’ Section 301 unilateral actions against China, stemming from the US’ concerns over China’s ambitious industrial policies and its rapid technological advancements. It outlines the accusations of the US regarding China’s conditions for technology transfer and what the US sees as overly intrusive Chinese government involvement in investments. It looks in detail at why the US’ actions are in fact illegitimate and misguided. (more…)