US President Joe Biden is pushing for fair global taxation of multinational corporations. Will the UK support him? – Joyce McMillan
The G7 is essentially a group of Western powers – the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy – along with their closest Asian ally, Japan, and representatives of the ‘EU; and even in a rapidly changing global community, the group still represents more than half of all global wealth and the seven largest developed economies recognized by the International Monetary Fund.
If G7 leaders were hoping for quieter times, however – after the departure of Donald Trump, which notoriously disrupted the G7 meeting in Canada in 2018 – then it looks like they might be disappointed; for contrary to expectations, the US administration of the man once known as “Sleepy Joe” Biden – while strongly supporting international cooperation – seems to approach the tasks now facing the international community with seriousness, and even sometimes radicalism, which some traditional partners of the United States find a little disconcerting.
It’s not that Biden is anything more than a middle-of-the-road politician, a traditional Democrat who seeks to uphold the American constitution, while still recognizing that America’s core business is business. In these times of pandemic, however – and after the far-right disruption of the Trump presidency – these simple values make him look like a passionate activist for democracy and social justice.
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What if we add the unique pressures of the moment to the equation – including the need for massive public investment in the corrective recovery from Covid, and a comprehensive Green New Deal to help pivot the US economy? towards a low-carbon future – he becomes see Biden, who at 78 was born during the wartime presidency of Franklin D Roosevelt, as the bearer of a new Rooseveltian era of public investment, welfare and of willingness to confront the various vested interests which, in the long era of neoliberalism, were allowed to plunder the wealth of nations, reduce the share of wealth paid to ordinary workers and regularly deplete our public coffers.
All of this helps explain why the not-so-sleepy Joe Biden will arrive at Carbis Bay next week armed with a plan for fair global taxation of multinational corporations that could mark the start of a new era of serious intergovernmental cooperation in tax matters. . , and the end of the global game of shifting individual wealth and corporate profits to low-tax countries and tax havens.
The plan is to set a lower limit – the current figure under discussion is 15%, although Biden initially suggested 21% – on how much tax a business will pay, so that if it avoids tax in one country, she will be forced to pay in another; and estimates suggest that even at this modest pace, this unique new measure could earn the UK government an additional £ 200 million from BP alone, and the EU an additional EUR 170 billion a year from the multinationals operating there.
The question, however, is how the other leaders gathered at the G7 will respond to Biden’s apparent determination to confront those vested interests that nearly all Western governments have been so keen to appease and woo for decades.
The EU and the UK have already been visibly baffled, and somewhat overwhelmed on the left, by the Biden administration’s support for patenting Covid vaccines; the EU and the UK, strongly urged by the big pharmaceutical companies, still oppose the measure at the World Trade Organization.
They may even observe with slight concern, or awe, his apparent fearlessness in overturning Donald Trump’s decision to allow oil and gas exploration in a huge Alaskan nature reserve, to the fury of companies that risk losing. Billions ; or, for that matter, his willingness to risk the rage of white supremacists by traveling to Tulsa on Wednesday, to speak at a memorial event for more than 300 black Americans killed 100 years ago this week, in a rampage barely recognized by whites until now. violence and destruction in the thriving township of Greenwood.
Whether Biden’s willingness to risk these confrontations has to do with his age – including the fact that he’s unlikely to run for a second term – or a purely practical response to the pressures of the moment, which is clear, it’s clear. is that his administration now presents the other G7 governments with a set of crucial decisions.
If they support Biden’s approach, what they stand to gain – in terms of income and weight – is already evident; the only question is whether they are ready to abandon the tired ideological legacy of the 1980s and embrace these new times with some enthusiasm and some vision.
And if they procrastinate, and end up blocking most of Biden’s initiatives, then they’ll both undermine a key part of his presidency – and therefore the chances of a Kamala Harris presidency to follow – and also give back the global initiative. to well-funded reactionary forces now stepping up their rhetoric against Joe Biden and his policies, in the United States and beyond.
G7 governments already know, of course, where this is leading; the chaos of Trumpism, the strengthening of chauvinistic nationalism, the collapse of meaningful international cooperation and a world of disinformation and delusion, plunged into perhaps terminal denial of the gravity of the problems we face. In Cornwall next week, Joe Biden will call on Western leaders to start meeting the challenges of our century, or become complicit in a historic and terrible failure; hope, for the good of all of us, that they decide wisely.