Finance ministers and central bankers from the G7 states are meeting today in Bari, Italy.
The official agenda for the meeting is supposed to focus on issues such as inequality, cyber security and how to block the funding of terrorism, but the actual topics discussed may be further from this.
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The main issue? US protectionism
At the moment, the issue of US protectionism remains high on the G7 list. At last month’s G20 meeting in Washington, president Trump and his America first policies were the top of the agenda.
This week’s meeting is another chance for ministers to gauge Trump’s intentions from his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.
At a press briefing this week, a G7 official said:
“It will be another chance to learn what the US government is thinking and planning.”
There isn’t supposed to be a formal discussion on trade at this week’s meeting, as this is something which is set to be tackled at another summit in Sicily in May, however it will not be far from people’s minds.
Debt relief for Greece
Again, this isn’t on the official agenda but will probably be discussed ahead of a meeting in May between the euro zone finance ministers on the disbursement of new loans for Athens.
Greece’s creditors, such as the European central bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will all be in Bari. The IMF in particular is pushing for rapid debt relief measures for Greece, but euro zone governments believe this is still premature and too much for the country to handle at the moment.
Now, this is on the official agenda for the G7 meeting, particularly what Trump plans to do.
A senior US treasury official said this week that Mnuchin will brief the rest of the G7 on the Trump administration’s still-emerging plans for tax. So far, the Republican president has proposed to revamp the US tax code with major cuts for businesses, review the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, something the UK’s financial conduct authority (FCA) isn’t happy about, and ease business regulatory burdens.
Taxation and terrorism
As well as discussing Trump’s tax plans, at the meeting the ministers are set to sign the Bari Declaration for fighting tax crimes and other illicit financial flows.
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This declaration promises to seek more effective ways to tackle money laundering, international tax evasion and the financing of terrorism. The Italian foreign minister, Pier Carlo Padoan, said last week that Italy wants to do everything it can to push for more effective international rules on the taxation of global internet companies.
The tech conglomerates around the world, such as Google, Apple and Amazon, have all been criticised for their inability to pay tax in the countries where they have registered offices, such as Ireland and New Zealand.
What about Brexit?
It doesn’t look like Brexit will be discussed at this meeting but then again, things could change. The finance ministers will probably leave discussions about the UK leaving the European Union for the G7 leaders to discuss at the next summit in Sicily, at the end of May.
This will be as part of Trump’s first overseas trip as US president, as well as one of Emmanuel Macron’s first foreign visits as French president. The UK prime minister Theresa May will be attending, as the summit is just a few weeks before the UK’s next general election, on 8 June.