Major step forward as 11 European countries commit to Robin Hood Tax

Details still need to be worked out but 11 EU finance ministers agree to impose tax as part of measures needed to curb risky speculative trading practices.

Luxembourg (8 Oct. 2012) – At a meeting of European Union finance ministers 11 countries agreed to proceed with a Financial Transactions Tax (FTT, and commonly referred to as the Robin Hood Tax) in the near future. While the details of the tax still need to be worked out, the finance ministers agreed to impose the tax as part of measures needed to curb risky speculative trading practices.

Most civil society advocates argue that the funds raised should be used to assist in reducing global poverty and addressing climate change though some governments argue that it could also be used to create a security net for banks and fund the EU’s budget.

The push for the FTT at the governmental level has been led by France and Germany who still hope that it will be adopted by the entire European Union though a few countries, notably the Britain and the Netherlands, have expressed concern about its economic impact.

The 11 countries that agreed to coordinate the implementation of a FTT include: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. While many of the details need to be worked out though the EU Commission has suggested that trades in bonds and shares be taxed at 0.1 per cent and trades in derivatives be taxed at 0.01 per cent. Other countries can choose to join the process later.

This news comes as international civil society groups, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), push Dr. Jim Yong Kim the new President of the World Bank to use his position to advocate for the FTT.

In an open letter they say that given "the budget constraints facing many of the largest donor countries, it is widely accepted that new sources of financing are needed. Our organizations are part of a growing international campaign to promote one of the most promising forms of innovative finance – small taxes on trades of stock, derivatives, currencies, and other financial instruments."

As the global push for a Robin Hood Tax grows, Canadian advocates wonder if Canada will continue to be an obstacle to progress. At recent G8 and G20 meetings the Harper government was a vocal opponent to the proposal.

James Clancy, NUPGE National President, has repeatedly called on Prime Minister Harper to seriously examine the proposal.

According to Clancy "it is time that those most responsible for this crisis, and those that benefited from government bailouts, take greater responsibility for putting things right – both in Canada and around the world."

"As the global economy appears to be slowly recovering from what was the greatest crisis since the Great Depression, it is imperative that all elected leaders examine ways to both steer this recovery and take steps to prevent a re-occurrence."

"In this context we strongly think that a financial transactions tax is an economic policy initiative that merits Canada’s support."

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE