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EU sounds alarm over GOP tax plan
The GOP tax bill raised concerns among European finance ministers, who wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to tell him that its trade-related provisions might impede transatlantic trade flows and could even violate WTO rules.
By Rick Docksai
Contributor
Jan 12, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. — The European Commission warned U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a letter Tuesday that the GOP's tax overhaul could "seriously" damage trade and investment flows across the Atlantic and might violate international trade rules and commitments. The letter follows a similar statement that Mnuchin received Monday from the finance ministers of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Spain.

The ministers expressed concern over provisions of the tax bill that would privilege U.S. operations and products over foreign ones. The ministers expressed concerns that the tax-reform plan will be the start of more "America First" trade discrimination that would ultimately stifle European-U.S. commerce.

"We have strong concerns if [US action to protect its tax base] is done via measures that are not targeted on abusive arrangements as this would impact on genuine business activities," they wrote.

The tax bill's fine points are still in formation, as the House and Senate Republicans are working to reconcile their versions' differences. But both versions institute changes to transatlantic trade law. The House version imposes a 20% excise tax on U.S. company purchases from their foreign subsidiaries, while the Senate version calls for lower taxes on U.S. exporters' profits, as well as taxing transfers within international banks and insurance companies on the total amount sent between U.S. and European operations.

The letter implied potential European retaliation if the House measure passes, as it could "face challenges as an illegal export subsidy." It argued that the Senate's provisions may violate WTO obligations and existing treaties, as well.

A Commission spokesman told Reuters separately that the bill could "severely affect foreign institutions operating in the U.S." and would "challenge the ability for these financial institutions to effectively hedge the risks" or to "meet their global capital targets."