Harper pushes back against global bank tax
Published Wednesday, May 5, 2010 5:27PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is rejecting calls for an international bank tax in the wake of the economic crisis, saying Canadian banks should not be punished.
After Harper attended a Canada-European Union summit Wednesday aimed at working out a new free trade deal between the two parties, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said such a tax should be applied to banks worldwide to "have a level playing field" and ensure that nations are working together to prevent another meltdown.
"We believe it makes sense -- at least to avoid this situation to come again -- that there is some contribution from the financial sector, a kind of insurance against this coming back again," Barroso told reporters. "And we believe it makes sense to do it if possible at the global level to have a level playing field and not to have contradictory measures."
CTV's Roger Smith, who is travelling with the prime minister on his four-day trip to Europe, said Harper disagrees with the proposal.
"(Harper) says Canadian banks have been well-regulated, they never took some of the risks and reaped the benefits that some of the banks that got into trouble did. He said there were no bailouts in Canada, so why should Canadian banks have to be punished?" Smith told CTV News Channel in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon.
"Now he says he will be pushing against a bank tax when the two (G8 and G20) summits occur next month in Toronto and Huntsville and arguing that the world should concentrate on a better system of regulation for banks, rather than more taxes."
Harper arrived in Brussels on Wednesday for his European trip, which is packed with various meetings and ceremonial obligations.
Earlier Wednesday, Smith said free trade was the hot topic at the one-day Canada-European Union summit as the two sides continue to work on a free trade deal that's been in the works since last year.
"Two-way trade between Canada and Europe is now about $100 million a year and hopes are, with a new free-trade deal, that would increase by about 20 per cent over the next seven years," Smith told CTV's Canada AM.
With Europe facing immediate challenges stemming from a swirling debt crisis in Greece, Harper's visit comes at a time when the threat of protectionism has once again been raised. But Barroso said that should not affect the chances of getting a free-trade deal done with Canada.
"The message is that will not get in the way of Canada-Europe free trade negotiations," Smith said, describing remarks Barroso made earlier Wednesday.
"During a crisis like this, (Barroso) says it is all the more important to push ahead with free trade."
After Wednesday's meeting, Harper travelled to Amsterdam so that he can take part in a ceremony in the Netherlands tomorrow marking the anniversary of that country's liberation from Nazi occupation after the Second World War. The actual anniversary date falls on Wednesday, but the ceremony will occur a day late.
It will take place at a cemetery where more than 1,000 Canadian soldiers and airmen are buried, Smith said.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will also be in attendance, as will a group of Canadian war veterans and schoolchildren.
On Friday, Harper will be the first Canadian prime minister to visit Croatia, when he meets with Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and President Ivo Josipovic.
On Saturday, Harper will attend a ceremony in Berlin, marking the 65th anniversary of Germany's surrender to Allied forces.
While in Berlin, he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel where the two leaders will discuss the upcoming G8 and G20 summits.
With files from The Canadian Press