Certified Trade Mission to Kazakhstan & Ukraine
First-Ever Certified Trade Mission to Kazakhstan and Ukraine!
Join the webinar to learn about market opportunities in two of the richest markets in Eurasia!
Webinar Date: Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Time: 12:00 PM ET
Participation Fee: $25
Registration: Click here to register for the trade mission webinar
With a combined GDP of $230 billion, Kazakhstan and Ukraine offer unprecedented market opportunities in energy, infrastructure, and agriculture sectors. With a growing middle class, Kazakhstan has developed into the leading market in Central Asia and is positioning itself as a transit route between Europe and China. In Ukraine, strengthening domestic demand led by solid private consumption and sustained investment activity present new opportunities for U.S. companies.
The Washington, DC-based U.S.–Kazakhstan Business Association (USKZBA) and U.S.–Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Commercial Service, are organizing Certified Trade Missions (CTMs) to Kazakhstan and Ukraine to lead U.S. companies interested in making business connections in these promising markets in Eurasia.
U.S. Commercial Service Regional Senior Commercial Officer for Russia and Eurasia Michael Lally U.S. Commercial Service SCO Kazakhstan Dean Matlack US-Kazakhstan Business Association Executive Director Sarah Frese U.S. Commercial Service SCO Ukraine Martin Claessens US-Ukraine Business Council Morgan Williams
Trade Missions Dates:
October 24-26 – Kazakhstan (Almaty and Astana)
October 29-30 – Ukraine (Kyiv)
October 27-28 – Travel
eCommerce in Russia 2018
Market Insider Tips from Key Experts in Russian eCommerce
Understanding eCommerce opportunities is key for American exporters navigating challenges of the Russian market. This webinar is designed to introduce U.S. manufacturers to the basics of selling consumer goods to Russia via the Internet.
In this live interview a panel of eCommerce experts currently active and successful in the Russian eCommerce space will discuss:
- Legal issues
- Logistical obstacles and opportunities
- Marketing strategies
- Tips for operating online stores in Russia (domestic and international)
Russia’s economic recovery continues, amidst relatively high oil prices, enhanced macroeconomic stability, gradual monetary loosening, and ongoing momentum in global economic growth. Growth is forecast at between 1.5% and 1.8% in the period 2018-20. (World Bank) B2C E-Commerce is forecasted to be 1.71% of total GDP in 2018.
Over 1,000 American firms of all sizes continue to do business in Russia, given its 142 million consumers, $27k+ GDP per capita (as measured in purchasing power parity), a growing middle class and highly educated and trained workforce.
With over 80 million people using the internet, Russia has the largest online audience in Europe. Online sales have doubled in 3 years. The market volume amounted $16 billion for physical goods and $10 billion for online travel by 2017. The cross-border segment of eCommerce is the fastest growing. This growth has been driven in large part by Chinese companies, but key European and American players are also in the game.
Benefits to you:
- OPPORTUNITY – Gain first-hand information on the Russian market and upcoming promotional events in the Consumer Market Sector and eCommerce. U.S. Embassy Commercial Counselor and an eCommerce market research specialist will introduce the market.
- KNOWLEDGE – Wondering how to sell goods online to Russia and avoid common mistakes? Receive advice directly from retailers and market insiders.
- CUSTOMIZED – Panel of experts will answer your questions in real time and share their own strategies to market entry and efficient sales.
- CONVENIENCE – No need to come to Russia to learn about the market. Connect from your office or home by Webex.
Webinar Series: Exploring European eCommerce
Webinar Dates: September 11th, 13th & 18th (11:00 am ET)
Participation Cost: $75 For the Series (all three webinars included)
Registration: Click here to sign-up
Questions: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Commercial Service is pleased to present a webinar series for U.S. SMEs looking to boost exports to the European Union through e-commerce.
In 2015, the European Commission unveiled the Digital Single Market strategy, making the growth of the digital economy a priority for Europe. In 2016, E-commerce sales in Europe reached $628 billion, up 15%, with 261 million consumers shopping online
What does this mean for U.S. exporters?
Join the US Commercial Service as we explore the implications of the EU Digital Market strategy for U.S. exporters. Over the course of the series, experts will provide insight on how to find best markets, getting goods to market and tips on e-commerce VAT. Speakers will offer practical advice to U.S. SMEs looking to do business in Europe.
September 11 – Finding Europe’s Best eCommerce Markets
- Regional market segmentation in Europe
- Using data to target the best e-commerce markets
- E-Commerce Europe entry strategies
- Speaker: Finnian O’Cionnaith, Head of Research & Development – GEODIS
September 13 – eCommerce Distribution for Europe
- Logistics and distribution challenges when fulfilling orders from Europe.
- Service expectations of the European customers.
- Cost structures based on sales volume.
- Speakers: Stan de Caluwe, Se. Manager Supply Chain Solutions – Holland International Distribution Council & Chris Boyle, President – Global Access
September 18 – VAT Fulfillment for eCommerce
- What is VAT and how is it paid?
- Differences in VAT fulfillment between standard exports and eCommerce
- Properly invoicing customers on B2C shipments
- Speakers: Daniela Treplow, Market Communications, EuroVAT
Note: The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 markets help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to global markets.
Video: U.S. Commercial Service Helps U.S. Businesses Export and Grow Internationally https://youtu.be/0IvbSP_oemQ
U.S. Navy Chief Seeks to Strengthen U.S. Alliances in Latin America
The bedrock of America’s military advantage is the system of alliances the United States maintains around the world.
Navy Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, reached out to allies in South and Central America at the 28th Inter-American Naval Conference last week in Cartagena, Colombia.
In line with the National Defense Strategy, Richardson is looking to strengthen partnerships with like-minded nations.
Commitment to Regional, Global Institutions
“We are all Americans here; however, we are bound by more than simply our shared geography,” Richardson said during an address to conference attendees. “We share inter-American values and a commitment to regional and global institutions that are designed to confront common security challenges.”
He added, “That we are here together is no coincidence. While military-to-military-
That the conference was held in Cartagena was itself significant. The city was once the seat of a notorious drug cartel. Colombia was the scene of the longest-running civil war in the Western Hemisphere. But democratic institutions won out and last year, peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia bore fruit and FARC laid down its arms. Colombia is now an exporter of security, and a valued ally.
“Despite the challenges we face — internal to our nations or common to all — our regional security relationship forms the keel of our shared American ship,” the admiral said. “For me, this conference reaffirms that keel is as steady and as strong as it has ever been.”
Building, Strengthening Relationships
The United States, he said, is committed to building new relationships and strengthening old ones.
“The best thing to do is to be the best possible partner to our friends and allies, and that’s why the majority of our efforts here in this region are focused on strengthening the partnerships that are backbone of the regional security network,” Richardson said.
The nations work together in many different areas. Chile, Colombia and Peru are all participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise near Hawaii. Colombia is participating for the 12th time. It is a sign of the confidence the United States holds in its South American allies that Chilean Commodore Pablo Niemann serves as the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander; in effect, commanding all maneuvering afloat forces in a series of high-end warfare missions.
“This RIMPAC is a landmark — partners achieving their maximum potential naval power, improving together,” Richardson said.
Later this year, Colombia will host Exercise Unitas. Planning for the exercise — held yearly since 1959 — has begun with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic meeting to discuss scenarios. The purpose of the exercise is to improve coordination among naval forces.
“Our mutual participation in these exercises reflect the security interests and the prosperity interests of our respective countries,” Richardson said. “This is part of a broader, enduring effort to steam together with your navies so that through training, we can learn to communicate, navigate and operate together.”
But the deployments also serve a higher purpose, the admiral said.
“They enhance security. They maintain order. They preserve a system that is legal, transparent, and fair for all nations,” he said. “And they promote prosperity for all.”
Richardson will continue on and meet with officials in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
PUERTO CORTES, Honduras (March 23, 2018) Sailors and Soldiers spend ten days in Puerto Cortes, Honduras for Continuing Promise 2018. U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet has deployed a force to execute Continuing Promise to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian assistance, training engagements, and medical, dental, and veterinary support in an effort to show U.S. support and commitment to Central and South America. (U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Luksan)
Video: U.S. Navy Humanitarian aid Honduras https://youtu.be/_g5cHKuVGps
|U.S. Southern Command|
Australia delivers on Women, Peace and Security Agenda
The Turnbull Government continues to further its commitment to improving the lives of women both nationally and internationally.
Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, today presented the United Nations Progress Report of the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012-2018 (National Action Plan) to Parliament.
Supporting the Turnbull Government’s broader Women, Peace and Security agenda, the report outlines the activities Australia has undertaken in 2017 to improve the lives of women in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Key achievements outlined in the report include:
- 100 per cent of Australian Defence Force personnel deployed overseas are now trained in the Women, Peace and Security agenda, compared to a baseline of 53 per cent in 2012.
- The Australian Federal Police continues to collaborate with partners, local NGOs and civil society to strengthen partner police response to gender based violence in the Pacific.
- The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is expanding the reach of the Women, Peace and Security agenda through its advocacy in multilateral and regional forums, such as the UN and ASEAN, and through its participation in dedicated dialogues such as the National Focal Points Network on Women, Peace and Security.
- Australia’s official development assistance to global efforts, such as the Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund, provides tangible support for strengthening the participation and contribution of women in maintaining, securing and sustaining peace.
- Talisman Sabre, the principal Australian and United States military exercise now includes Women, Peace and Security training scenarios and objectives.
- The Australian Civil-Military Centre is building strong partnerships with civil society and increasing the capacity of Australian’s deployed overseas to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
During our two-year term on the UN Security Council in 2013-2014, Australia brought an unprecedented level of attention to improving women’s participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Australia continues to be leaders in promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda as an integral part of the international rules-based order.
Australia’s first National Action Plan articulates a whole of government commitment to protect women’s human rights in fragile, conflict and post-conflict settings. We committed to working together to end impunity for perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence and ensure women can contribute their experiences and leadership to realise durable peace.
The Progress Report of the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2012-2018 (National Action Plan) is available on the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.
A second National Action Plan is currently being developed for release in mid-2019. Consultations with stakeholders are underway and members of the community are encouraged to provide input on the OFWEngage site
[Source: Government of Australia / Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP/Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Minister For Women, The Hon Kelly O’dwyer (joint media release) -/- Media Relations]
[Photo Credits: Photos inserted by Openeyesopinion.com (credits embedded)]
Investment Plan for Europe: EIB and Santander provide EUR 500 million to finance SMEs
The EIB will participate in a portfolio of corporate loans originated by Banco Santander to increase capacity to lend to SMEs
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Banco Santander will provide financing to Spanish SMEs through an innovative instrument that enables the two institutions to share the risks. The agreement, signed in Madrid by EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro and Santander España’s CEO Rami Aboukhair, is backed by the Investment Plan for Europe. Under this financing facility, the EIB will participate in a EUR 250 million portfolio of corporate loans and Banco Santander will be able to provide EUR 500 million of financing for the investments of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Thanks to the EIB’s participation, Banco Santander will therefore expand its capacity to grant loans to finance new investments by SMEs, which will benefit from the EIB’s favourable financing conditions in terms of both maturity and interest rates. The EU bank’s objective is to contribute to boosting the competitiveness of Spanish businesses through this agreement, thereby stimulating economic growth and job creation.
The loan is supported by the Investment Plan for Europe, which enables the EIB to finance projects that have a particular added value and a higher risk profile owing to their structure or nature. In this case, the backing of the Juncker Plan has helped to develop an innovative financing instrument to underpin the new investments of small and medium-sized enterprises and unlock private capital.
At the signing ceremony, EIB Vice-President Emma Navarro said: “Ensuring that SMEs have the financing they need to invest in enhancing their competitiveness is one of the EIB’s priorities. We are therefore delighted to be signing an agreement which demonstrates via its innovative character the EIB’s determination to find new ways of ensuring that small and medium-sized enterprises continue to benefit from the advantages of our financing. Last year, 57% of our total financing in Spain went to SMEs.”
European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen said: “Thanks to the support of the European Investment Plan, the EU has already helped some 700 000 SMEs across Europe to access the financing they need. This EUR 250 million EIB agreement under the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) will enable Santander to lend EUR 500 million to small Spanish companies. It is an excellent example of how the financial instruments guaranteed by the EU help to attract private sector investment for our entrepreneurs and their projects, increasing local employment rates.”
For his part, Santander España’s CEO Rami Aboukhair commented: “Banco Santander is a pioneer in the development of credit lines with the EIB that adapt to the investment and liquidity needs of strategic sectors of our economy, always with very advantageous conditions for the client. Our priority is to provide SMEs with the financial support and personal service they need 24 hours a day, with financial products and solutions, such as the 1I2I3 strategy, tailormade to the requirements of each business.”
This agreement is the second of this kind to be signed between the EIB and Banco Santander. The previous operation, also granted under the Investment Plan for Europe, has already assisted more than 3 500 businesses. The average loan to beneficiary SMEs under this agreement was EUR 180 000, and more than 30% of the companies benefiting from it are located in convergence regions.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union, owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investment in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives.
The Investment Plan for Europe, known as the “Juncker Plan”, is one of the European Commission’s top priorities. It focuses on boosting investment to generate jobs and growth by making smarter use of financial resources, removing obstacles to investment, and providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects.
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is the main pillar of the Juncker Plan and provides first loss guarantees, enabling the EIB to invest in more projects that often come with greater risks. EFSI has already yielded tangible results. The projects and agreements approved for financing under EFSI are expected to mobilise more than EUR 335 billion in investment and support 700 000 SMEs in the 28 Member States.
More information on the results of the Investment Plan for Europe is available here.
Remarks on “America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision”
Speech at Indo-Pacific Business Forum:
Michael R. Pompeo: Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be with you. Thank you, Tom, for the kind introduction. Thanks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for having me here and hosting this important Indo-Pacific Business Forum as well. I’m glad to see, too, many American business leaders with us here today. I did this for a long time – people forget that’s what I did for a living before I lost my mind and ran for Congress.
I know there’s also folks from State Department here and from the administration. I also see a number of ambassadors for – that are stationed here and those from foreign capitals. Thank you all for being here and for partnering with the United States and our businesses as we pursue prosperity for all people across the world.
I also want to thank my colleagues Secretary Ross, Secretary Perry, Administrator Green, Ambassador Gerrish, Ray Washburne, too, at OPIC, a good friend of mine from my business days. Your president helps – your presence helps solidify our economic approach to the Indo-Pacific as a truly whole-of-government mission.
I wanted to come here this morning to talk about the Trump administration’s strategy for advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific, and why U.S. business engagement is at the center of it – it’s a staple of our mission to promote peace, stability, and prosperity.
President Trump first outlined his vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific at the APEC CEO Summit in Vietnam just last year. The National Security Strategy also detailed that vision. Make no mistake, the Indo-Pacific, which stretches from the United States west coast to the west coast of India, is a subject of great importance to American foreign policy. As I will detail in a bit, this region is one of the greatest engines of future global – of the future global economy, and it already is today. And the American people and the whole world have a stake in the Indo-Pacific’s peace and prosperity. It’s why the Indo-Pacific must be free and open.
And for those of you who might not be familiar with our terminology of “free and open,” I want to just spend a minute talking about what it is this administration means when it uses that language.
When we say “free” Indo-Pacific, it means we all want all nations, every nation, to be able to protect their sovereignty from coercion by other countries. At the national level, “free” means good governance and the assurance that citizens can enjoy their fundamental rights and liberties.
When we say “open” in the Indo-Pacific, it means we want all nations to enjoy open access to seas and airways. We want the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes. This is key for international peace and for each country’s attainment of its own national aims.
Economically, “open” means fair and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, transparent agreements between nations, and improved connectivity to drive regional ties – because these are the paths for sustainable growth in the region.
The U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific is deeply rooted. The State Department, which I represent, established a consular presence in Kolkata – then called Calcutta – in 1794.
American entrepreneurs, whom most of you in this room represent, have been trading and investing in the Indo-Pacific even longer than that. And I won’t give you a full history today, but I will note how the United States has played a foundational role in enabling the growth, development, and wealth we see across the entire Indo-Pacific today.
The great theme of our engagement is this: Where America goes, we seek partnership, not domination. After World War II we worked with Japan to forge a great alliance and stimulate an economic boom. South Korea in the ‘50s was ravaged by conflict. American assistance and investment in railways, ports, and other infrastructure helped create a foundation for our South Korean friends to recover, thrive, and build one of the world’s most prosperous economies – one that is now strong enough to aid other countries in their development.
In the ‘60s, we grew partnerships to address basic developmental needs. We supported transformational agricultural efforts, such as the Green Revolution, which forever improved farming of wheat and rice worldwide – and nowhere more than in the Indo-Pacific. We helped Hong Kong, Singapore, and other Southeast Asian economies rise from the ‘70s onward. In Taiwan, economic development went hand-in-hand with creating an open, democratic society that blossomed into a high-tech powerhouse. And America was proud to support foundational institutions like ASEAN, APEC, and the Asian Development Bank, among others.
Thanks to this history of economic and commercial engagements, America’s relationships throughout the Indo-Pacific today are characterized by mutual trust and respect. American friendship is welcomed, and American businesses are recognized for their ingenuity, their reliability, and their honesty.
Today no country does more two-way trade in the Indo-Pacific than the United States. In Southeast Asia, the U.S. is the single largest source of cumulative foreign investment – larger than China, Japan and the European Union.
Open a map of the Indo-Pacific today, and it is dotted with U.S. public and private efforts to foster self-reliance, build institutions, and promote private sector growth.
In the Philippines, Dallas-based Texas Instruments opened a factory in 1979 that helped the country turn into a crucial part of the global semiconductor supply chain. In Malaysia, General Electric first invested in a sales and service center in 1975. Today GE has over 1,300 employees in the country, from Kuala Lumpur to Sarawak. With Malaysians recently having elected a new government, I want them and their leaders to know that America stands ready, as we always do for partners around the region, to deepen commercial, government, people-to-people ties – all based on our shared democratic values. I’ll travel there in the week ahead.
Chevron was the first company ever granted oil-exploration rights in Thailand, and in 1973 it discovered the first hydrocarbons in Thai waters. This gave birth to a major local industry. Today Chevron is Thailand’s top natural gas and crude oil producer, and its investments support more than 200,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Chevron’s “Enjoy Science Project” trains local teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math to strengthen Thailand’s intellectual capital and help Chevron make greater returns on its investment. Chevron’s Thailand unit even provided equipment and technical advice for the recent rescue of those courageous boys and their coach who were trapped in a flooded cave.
U.S. companies literally help Indo-Pacific partner nations reach for the stars. SpaceX, one of America’s most innovative firms, recently launched Bangladesh’s first-ever indigenous communications satellite.
Now, to be clear, the U.S. Government doesn’t tell American companies what to do. But we help build environments that foster good, productive capitalism. We help American firms succeed so that local communities can flourish, and bilateral partnerships can grow.
That’s why the United States supports educational efforts such as Fulbright University Vietnam and the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. This is the same kind of commitment we showed in the past when we helped establish the first Indian Institute of Technology, along with 14 regional engineering colleges and eight agricultural universities all across India.
Development finance is also important. Our Overseas Private Investment Corporation has a portfolio of 3.9 billion invested in the Indo-Pacific alongside American firms in industries from energy to healthcare to banking. For every dollar that OPIC has invested, the private sector has invested $2.76. In Indonesia, OPIC has teamed up with USAID and Colorado-based UPC Renewables to develop the country’s first utility-scale wind farm, to provide clean, affordable, reliable power to 70,000 Indonesian households.
And our Millennium Challenge Corporation has granted $2.1 billion since 2004 to promote development and good governance in Indo-Pacific nations. Right now MCC is spending 500 million to build hundreds of kilometers of electricity transmission lines in Nepal and realize that country’s energy potential.
And today, at this Indo-Pacific Business Forum, I am proud to announce that MCC has signed a $350 million compact with the Government of Mongolia to develop new, long-term sources of water supply. In addition to helping Mongolia fulfill a critical human need, this will position the country to attract new investment and stimulate private sector-led growth. I know that the Mongolian foreign minister had intended to be here today, but he was unfortunately called away for business.
This MCC program will benefit both Mongolia, the region, and the world.
I could go on much longer and give you more examples. American companies have been a force for prosperity and good throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Our good faith as a partner is evident in our support of economic development that honors local autonomy and national sovereignty. The United States does not invest for political influence, but rather practices partnership economics.
The successes of the past and present are just a prelude to what I expect will come in the future. I am here to say emphatically that the Trump administration is committed to expanding our economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. We seek to capitalize on opportunities in accordance with the principles of freedom and openness.
As President Trump said in Vietnam last year, the Indo-Pacific is “a beautiful constellation of nations, each its own bright star, satellites to none – and each one a people, a culture, a way of life, a home.” To burn the brightest, this constellation needs the fuel of innovation and sustainable growth. This is what our Indo-Pacific strategy will promote. We believe in strategic partnerships, not strategic dependency.
As President Trump said last year, “We want you to be strong, prosperous, and self-reliant, rooted in your history, and reaching out toward the future.” Today I echo that message. I speak for President Trump when I say every nation and business can have confidence that the United States will continue to create the conditions for mutual prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific.
It is clearly in America’s strategic interest to deepen engagement in the region. More than one-third of the global population is there. Four of the world’s six largest economies are there as well, in China, Japan, and India – and of course, the United States. The ten countries of the ASEAN community are the fastest-growing economic zone in the world and are major buyers of U.S. products. President Trump will strike while the iron is hot, because there are clear economic benefits at hand for the American people.
Our Indo-Pacific vision excludes no nation. We seek to work with anyone to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, so long as that cooperation adheres to the highest standards that our citizens demand. The United States is committed to growing our presence in the region because we want Americans and all people of the Indo-Pacific to share in the economic growth of 2020, 2030, 2040, and beyond.
I know some are wondering about America’s role in the region in light of President Trump’s decision to pull out of TPP. While we work with our partners to craft better and higher-standard bilateral trade agreements, our companies are continuing to advance U.S. economic interests by growing their presence in the region. For example, the number of U.S. companies in Singapore has increased 10% over just the past two years.
Finally, we remain committed to economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific because of the national security benefits for the American people and our partners. As President Trump’s National Security Strategy states, “Economic security is national security.”
It’s clear a big part of America’s international economic future is in this region. So just as the United States made foundational contributions in the past, today I am announcing $113 million in new U.S. initiatives to support foundational areas of the future: digital economy, energy, and infrastructure. These funds represent just a down payment on a new era in U.S. economic commitment to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Our strategy seeks to catalyze American businesses to do what they do best. President Trump also expects our commitment to generate greater support for a free and open Indo-Pacific from all countries that share our vision of a region rooted in sovereignty, the rule of law, and sustainable prosperity.
The first initiative is the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership. This will start with a $25 million dollar initial investment to improve partner countries’ digital connectivity and expand opportunities for U.S. technology exports. The U.S. will support communications infrastructure development through technical assistance and public-private partnerships; promote market-driven digital regulatory policies; and build partners’ cybersecurity capacity to address common threats. We do this because we recognize the tremendous economic and social benefits that come with an open, secure, and reliable internet.
The second initiative is called Asia EDGE. It stands for Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy. Energy is of course the lifeblood of a modern economy. Through Asia EDGE, we will invest nearly $50 million this year alone to help Indo-Pacific partners import, produce, move, store, and deploy their energy resources. America’s energy bounty includes vast natural resources, world-leading private firms, sophisticated development-financial tools, and peerless technical expertise. We will draw on all of these to grow sustainable and secure energy markets throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Third, next, infrastructure. The United States is committed to connectivity that advances national sovereignty, regional integration, and trust. This occurs when infrastructure is physically secure, financially viable, and socially responsible.
So today the U.S. is launching an Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network to boost the development of infrastructure done right. This whole-of-government initiative, seeded with nearly $30 million dollars, establishes a new interagency body to coordinate, strengthen, and share U.S. tools for project scouting, financing, and technical assistance. It also establishes a new Indo-Pacific Transaction Advisory Fund to help partners access private legal and financial advisory services.
In each of these areas – digital economy, energy, and infrastructure – we look forward to working with allies and partners. We also look forward to leveraging the new and modernized tools and improved programming from the BUILD Act that recently passed the House and is now before the Senate. This is a big one. Under the House bill, the U.S. government’s development finance capacity would more than double to $60 billion dollars.
Let me say another word about money. President Trump – and I know most of you in this room don’t like to waste a single penny – and this investment is not waste. Nor is it about giving money away. This is a strategic investment in the most competitive part of the world for years to come.
We are proud to support the BUILD Act, and to allocate $113 million dollars in immediate new funds to expand economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. Later this week, I will make further announcements on security assistance.
But we also know government spending alone can never address the Indo-Pacific’s needs. According to the Asian Development Bank, developing countries in the region will need $26 trillion for infrastructure by the year 2030. No government nor combination of governments has that kind of money. Only the private sector does. And only if countries make themselves welcoming to private investment will those trillions of dollars get off the sidelines, into their economies, and into productive enterprises that bring jobs and prosperity to their peoples. For that to happen, Indo-Pacific leaders must prioritize transparency, anti-corruption, and responsible financing.
The U.S. government’s Indo-Pacific initiatives will be shaped by these values and buttressed by partnerships with American companies. This will reflect American values in the high standards, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law.
With American companies, citizens around the world know that what you see is what you get: honest contracts, honest terms, and no need for off-the-books mischief. Integrity in business practices is an essential pillar of our Indo-Pacific economic vision, and it is what each country in the region needs.
As I close today I want everyone to understand something: this is a commitment. I personally pledge as the Secretary of State that I will engage with you. I will engage with Congress and our foreign counterparts. So will our Ambassadors and other U.S. officials. I was delighted to make my first trip to Vietnam a few weeks ago, and there will be many more trips to the region even yet this year.
One such trip starts on Wednesday of this week. I will travel to Malaysia, to Singapore, and then on to Indonesia for the weekend. I look forward to discussing everything that I’ve shared with you today with political and business leaders in the region. ASEAN is literally at the center of the Indo-Pacific, and it plays a central role in the Indo-Pacific vision that America is presenting. This is one reason that out of the $113 million will come a package of U.S. support for important regional institutions, like ASEAN and our ASEAN Connect initiative, APEC, the Lower Mekong Initiative, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. More on that later this week.
The Trump administration has a clear vision for the Indo-Pacific in the 21st century. It is an American vision that is deeply engaged in the region’s economic, political, cultural, and security affairs. Like so many of our Asian allies and friends, our country fought for its own independence from an empire that expected deference. We thus have never and will never seek domination in the Indo-Pacific, and we will oppose any country that does.
Rather, we aspire to a regional order, independent nations that can defend their people and compete fairly in the international marketplace. We stand ready to enhance the security of our partners and to assist them in developing their economies and societies in ways that ensure human dignity. We will help them. We will help them keep their people free from coercion or great power domination.
And today I want to close by inviting any nation and any business that wants those values enshrined in this region to partner with the United States Government. A free and open Indo-Pacific is America’s chosen course – and we hope that it will be yours too. Thank you, God bless you, and have a great day.
WTO issues 2018 editions of its flagship statistical publications
The WTO issued today (30 July) the latest editions of its annual statistical publications: World Trade Statistical Review, Trade Profiles and World Tariff Profiles.
World Trade Statistical Review 2018 looks into the latest trends in global trade, with an in-depth analysis of what is being traded in goods and services and who the leading players are. It also looks at the performance of developing economies, the latest developments in regional trade agreements, trade in value-added terms and digital trade.
A section on trade policy developments provides data on trade-restrictive and trade-facilitating measures implemented by WTO members, commitments to the Aid for Trade initiative, and implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. It also looks into the latest developments in trade finance and the outcome of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference held at the end of 2017.
Analytical chapters are complemented by over 60 tables providing a detailed breakdown of merchandise trade and trade in commercial services.
Merchandise trade data in World Trade Statistical Review are jointly produced in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) while commercial services data are jointly produced with UNCTAD and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
Trade Profiles 2018 provides a series of key indicators on merchandise trade and trade in commercial services for 197 economies, highlighting the breakdown of exports and imports for each economy as well as their main trading partners. For each profile, the data are presented in a handy two-page format, providing a concise overview of global trade.
World Tariff Profiles 2018, a joint publication of the WTO, ITC and UNCTAD, provides comprehensive information on the tariffs and non-tariff measures imposed by over 170 countries and customs territories. Tariff data are presented in comparative tables and in one-page profiles for each economy. Statistics on non-tariff measures by country and by product group complement the data on tariffs.
World Tariff Profiles also includes as a special topic an analysis of how least-developed countries make use of preferential tariffs offered by trading partners for their exports.
The three publications can be downloaded from the WTO website. French and Spanish editions will be available for download by the end of August. Printed copies will be available in September.
Additional data are available through the WTO’s statistical webpage, the WTO statistical database and the International Trade and Market Access online data application. A further update of merchandise exports and imports will be available online at the end of October.
Video: The World Trade Organization (WTO) • Explained With Maps https://youtu.be/3Gqq2sBWai4
Amid the friction over trade, there is another, deeper challenge to resurgent growth in the Asia-Pacific.
In an interview with the APEC Bulletin, APEC Economic Committee Chair Robert Logie described the urgent need to accelerate domestic policy reforms to confront new and complex challenges, and address costly behind-the-border business barriers in the region. He went on to explain what APEC is doing about it and the implications for people’s lives.
APEC Bulletin Interviews Robert Logie:
APEC Bulletin: What is your view of the state of trade and investment in the APEC region?
Logie: I would say that the glass is half full, for two reasons. First, APEC member economies are benefiting from the strong global economy. We are at a good part of the economic cycle and that, of course, creates opportunities. This is reflected in trade, which has picked up in the past year. Investment has also been strong. People have confidence that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to grow.
Second, APEC economies are being more deliberate in how they implement structural reforms – in competition policy and public sector management, strengthening economic and legal infrastructure and the overall regulatory process, ease of doing business and corporate law. Not only are economies finding ways to do these core functions better, they are moving to a more integrated approach to structural reform.
This approach has real benefits. It could help bring groups who were previously excluded into the formal economy – women, indigenous people and small businesses, for example – and help them access the digital economy. Policies that help people respond to change and ensure the benefits of trade are shared more widely could also increase public buy-in for trade agreements and lessen protectionist sentiment.
However, when I look at near-term trade trends, I can think of a few reasons to say that the glass is half empty. While I am very concerned about rising tariffs and uncertainty, as Chair of the APEC Economic Committee, what keeps me up at night is whether APEC economies will continue with structural reforms and efforts to address behind-the-border barriers to trade. This will have a critical influence on the prospects for trade, investment and growth.
APEC Bulletin: What sort of behind-the-border trade barriers are of greatest concern to you?
Logie: What I am very concerned about, and what I think business people and policymakers should be very concerned about, is behind-the-border barriers put in place because of protectionist sentiments.
Some economies use standards for agricultural products as a way of keeping out imports and protecting their own farmers. In other cases, economies seek to favor important domestic industries or state-owned enterprises. This kind of thing, if it is not checked, really has the potential to undermine free trade agreements and the basis of our economic relations.
Down the road, increasing protectionism could undermine the multilateral trading system as well as the competitiveness and growth prospects for the Asia-Pacific. This is all the more relevant because, with global value chains, many businesses depend on imports as much as exports. We really could end up killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
APEC Bulletin: What can APEC economies do to address business bottlenecks and keep the golden goose alive in the region in the current environment?
Logie: The most obvious way to remove bottlenecks is to move towards a higher-quality regional trading system and take steps to strengthen the multilateral trading system.
The APEC region has actually made concrete progress with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership. While this is not an APEC initiative, it was incubated through work on next generation trade and investment issues in APEC. There is also progress being made on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Pacific Alliance expansion talks. These are also potential pathways to the APEC goal of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.
Another example of progress is the implementation of the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement by all 21 APEC economies. This will make it easier to move goods across borders, particularly among the region’s developing economies and for small firms. For them, those barriers are more significant.
You put it all together and it is by no means game over for regional trade deals or for efforts to increase and deepen free trade and investment. These efforts are continuing in APEC and are essential to maintaining strong trade and investment growth. An integrated approach to structural reforms that addresses behind-the-border barriers could accelerate these efforts.
APEC Bulletin: What kind of structural policy adjustments are being pursued in APEC to keep up with changing technology and cross-border business needs, and promote economic inclusion?
Logie: There is a real need to update the way we do things on the regulatory front to help us take advantage of the digital economy. Right now, it is unclear how things should work and there are different standards in different economies. We need to harmonize that. The APEC Economic Committee will have consultations on good regulatory practices in Port Moresby in August to tackle head on the challenge of updating the way we do regulations for the digital age.
The APEC Economic Committee is also helping member economies design policies that enhance economic participation and ensure that the benefits of trade and the digital economy are shared more widely. We are taking into account the findings of our 2017 APEC Economic Policy Report which recommended an integrated suite of policies to improve skills training, make labor markets work better and better match the capabilities of workers with the needs of employers.
We are also working on better processes for infrastructure development, including digital infrastructure. There are tremendous challenges to rolling out infrastructure, really, in all APEC economies. Recommendations in our forthcoming 2018 APEC Economic Policy Report will help APEC economies to prioritize quality infrastructure and ensure that they get value-for-money. It will also provide policy approaches to unlock private sector innovation and ensure that infrastructure development supports inclusive growth and resilience.
APEC Bulletin: How is Papua New Guinea as this year’s Chair contributing to APEC’s work to tackle structural reform and new digital priorities?
Logie: This is the first time that an APEC host has put the digital economy front and center as part of their overarching theme for the year. Obviously, this is the priority for the government of Papua New Guinea. They want to have their people take advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital economy as soon as possible. For that, you need certain policy reforms. You need policies that encourage the rapid roll out of high-speed internet, for example.
They have also emphasized the importance of sustainable growth and the need for economic inclusion. During APEC’s Structural Reform Week in Port Moresby in August, we will discuss concrete ways that structural reforms can support increased trade and investment, including digital trade, and make sure that everybody benefits from the digital economy.
APEC Bulletin: How long will it take for APEC’s structural reform work to translate into tangible results for people and businesses around the region?
Logie: Structural reforms, by their nature, often take a few years to bear fruit. By making better rules, you give businesses and other actors an incentive to change their behavior – for example, to innovate more, to become more competitive, more export-oriented. But it takes time for that to happen. Businesses need to have confidence in these new rules.
That said, some of the things we are working on in the APEC Economic Committee have the potential to deliver benefits very quickly. Public sector governance is one area we are looking into, specifically how to harness digital tools to make public consultations less expensive and more effective. This can increase buy-in for structural reforms and make the rule-making process more inclusive.
There are also opportunities to provide a timely boost to small businesses across the APEC region. Many of these firms struggle to export and really tap into the benefits of the global economy. Some are reluctant to engage in e-commerce transactions with firms in another economy because they are concerned that they would not be able to afford legal fees in case of a dispute.
Right now, the APEC Economic Committee is working on a platform to help resolve disputes over e-commerce transactions cheaply and easily. This could really give those small firms the confidence to go global and to participate in the digital economy. It would also tangibly improve the ease of doing business.
ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes visit by delegation from the Spanish Congress of Deputies
A five-member delegation from the Spanish Congress of Deputies led by Rubén Moreno Palanques, member of the People’s Party, is visiting Taiwan from July 29 to August 2 at the invitation of the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes their visit.
The purpose of their visit is to gain firsthand insight into Taiwan’s political, economic, and cultural development. The meetings and exchanges on their itinerary will help strengthen mutual understanding and bilateral interactions between Taiwan and Spain.
The delegation will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and call at the Legislative Yuan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and Mainland Affairs Council. They will also visit sites of economic and cultural interest such as the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101.
In addition to Rubén Moreno Palanques, the delegation consists of Carlos Rojas García, member of the Home Affairs Committee and Justice Committee of the Congress of Deputies; Ana Isabel Alós López, Deputy Spokesperson of the Culture and Sports Committee; Carolina España Reina, Spokesperson of the Work, Migrations, and Social Security Committee; and Ignacio Tremiño Gómez, Spokesperson of the Committee on Comprehensive Policies for the Disabled.
All five members of the delegation are visiting Taiwan for the first time.
Video: Taipei – Most Fast-Growing MegaCity / National Geographic Documentary https://youtu.be/CgUpvZNSLgw
Vienna: The ‘Organization For Security And Co-operation In Europe’ Highlights The Effectiveness Of Multilateralism
Austrian Foreign Minister Kneissl highlights effective multilateralism during visit to OSCE Secretariat
Vienna, 30 July 2018 –Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl met today with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger at the headquarters of the organization in Vienna.
Pointing to the strong partnership between Austria and the OSCE, Kneissl stressed the importance of the OSCE as a valuable platform for dialogue and effective multilateralism. She recalled Austria’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2017, and its continued active engamenent in the Troika (together with the current and future Chairs, Italy and Slovakia).
Foreign Minister Kneissl expressed her strong support for Secretary General Greminger’s reform agenda which is designed to make the OSCE more “fit for purpose”. At the same time, she underlined the need for adequate human and financial resources in order for the OSCE to maintain its effectiveness and efficiency.
“In order to guarantee security and stability in the long term, there is no alternative to the path of dialogue. This dialogue will be critical and controversial. But it always has to remain constructive. For Austria, the OSCE is a key partner to that end.” That’s why we have to provide our organization with the means – both personal and material – that it needs. As the OSCE’s host country, we stand by our substantial contribution to the benefit of the people between Vancouver and Vladivostok,” said Kneissl.
Secretary General Greminger thanked Austria for its support as host country of the OSCE and for its longstanding and constructive engagement with the organization. He emphasized his appreciation in particular for Austria’s extra-budgetary contributions, most recently for the establishment of a Strategic Policy Support Unit within his office. The Unit is expected to provide greater support to future OSCE Chairmanships, and greater continuity in the strategic direction of the organization.
“The OSCE is part of what makes Vienna a security hub”, said Greminger. “We share the approach of Austria and the international organizations based in Vienna that complex challenges require multilateral responses”, said the Secretary General. “Working together is essential, not an extra”, said the Secretary General.
Secretary General Greminger and Minister Kneissl exchanged views on current issues and challenges in the OSCE area including the Western Balkans, conflict prevention, transnational threats, and the OSCE’s response to the crisis in and around Ukraine. They also discussed how to strengthen cooperation between the OSCE and the EU, particularly during Austria’s current EU Council Presidency.
Video: What is the OSCE? https://youtu.be/KRYMwpQ44X0
Abu Dhabi: Arab Film Studio Has Provided Practical Training And Education To More Than 100 Talented Young Filmakers
Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s Arab Film Studio celebrates 200 film screenings
ABU DHABI, 29th July, 2018 — Films created by participants in Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s flagship training programme Arab Film Studio have now screened over 200 times at prestigious film festivals around the globe, after Ranapakhara by Swapna Kurup was selected to screen at the Mosaic World Film Festival, Illinois this week.
The milestone comes following the completion of the third edition of Arab Film Studio’s Young Filmmakers program on Thursday 26th July.
Run in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi, this year’s program brought together 11 Emirati students under 18 to learn about filmmaking through intensive classes, workshops and hands-on experience using university’s state of the art equipment. Taught by Academy Award nominated filmmaker Scandar Copti, Program Head of Film and Assistant Arts Professor of Film at NYU Abu Dhabi, the program culminated with participants writing and directing their own one-minute films.
“Our Young Filmmakers program reflects Image Nation’s significant commitment to inspiring and supporting the next generations of creative professionals to build the region’s film and entertainment industry,” said Michael Garin, Image Nation CEO. “Over the past six years, Arab Film Studio has provided practical training and education to more than 100 talented participants, from the student participants in Young Filmmakers to emerging professionals. Image Nation is a channel for original and promising ideas to come to life and to see Arab Film Studio projects being recognized around the world is testament to the caliber of work being created.”
“Arab Film Studio was an incredible experience and through the training, mentoring and practical experience I was really able to hone my skills as a filmmaker. On top of this, the programme offers a really supportive platform for the ongoing success of our films. Ranapakhara becoming the 200th AFS film to be selected for a festival is an honour and a really exciting milestone,” said Swapna Kurup, who was awarded the 2016 Arab Film Studio Documentary prize for her 10-minute film that follows an Indian classical dancer who uses dance to help sufferers of Parkinson’s disease in Dubai.
Young Filmmakers is part of a series of Arab Film Studio programs offered annually by Image Nation, one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the Arabic-speaking world. The Narrative, Documentary and Scriptwriting programs are aimed at film students, young professionals and aspiring filmmakers with previous experience.
Over several months, selected participants work with industry experts to develop professional-quality projects, and many have gone on to successful careers in the industry. Winners of the best film award in the Narrative and Documentary categories win the ultimate internship with Image Nation, working with their relative departments, while the winner of the scriptwriting programme receives an AED100,000 production grant to make their script a reality.
Past participants have gone on to full-time positions within Image Nation, working on Hollywood blockbusters including, ‘He Named Me Malala’ and ‘War Machine’, as well as having their AFS films showcased at Academy Award-qualifying film festivals.
The U.S. Department Of Justice Announced That Swiss-Based Mirelis Holding S.A. Reached A Resolution With The Tax Division
U.S. Justice Department Announces Resolution With Swiss Financial And Asset Management Firm Mirelis Holding S.A.
“The agreement reached demonstrates the Department’s resolve toward ending the practice of using Swiss bank accounts to evade one’s taxes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department will continue to pursue culpable banks and asset management and investment advisory firms that assist U.S. clients in their concealment of assets and the evasion of their U.S. tax obligations.”
According to the terms of the non-prosecution agreement signed today, Mirelis Holding S.A. (formerly known as Mirelis InvestTrust S.A.) agrees to cooperate in any related criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared U.S. accounts, and pay $10.245 million to the United States, in return for the Department’s agreement not to prosecute this entity for tax-related criminal offenses.
Mirelis operated as a Geneva-based securities trading institution licensed by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (“FINMA”). Mirelis was established in 1997 to provide independent portfolio and asset management services following the sale of a minority ownership interest held by Mirelis’s controlling family and associates in Société Bancaire Julius Baer S.A.
After its establishment, Mirelis was initially permitted to offer its independent portfolio and asset management services to certain clients of the Geneva branch of Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd (which was formerly Société Bancaire Julius Baer S.A.) with whom the employees or officers of Mirelis had a previous relationship. The assets of clients who accepted the offer of Mirelis’s asset management services remained custodied at the Geneva branch of Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. (“Julius Baer”), which has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice. In addition to providing services to individuals and entities based in Switzerland, at all relevant times, Mirelis provided custodial and independent portfolio and asset management services to U.S. taxpayer-clients.
At the end of 2012, Mirelis and Atlas Capital S.A. (“Atlas”), another securities trading institution based in Geneva licensed by FINMA, entered into a share purchase agreement, pursuant to which Mirelis acquired, and subsequently merged with Atlas effective in May of 2013. Mirelis continued to serve clients as both an independent asset manager and as a custodian until May of 2014 when Mirelis transferred its activities to Hyposwiss Private Bank Genève S.A. (“Hyposwiss”), a Swiss private bank that has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the Department, pursuant to a reverse merger and acquisition of Hyposwiss by Mirelis.
During the Applicable Period, August 1, 2008, through December 31, 2014, the aggregate maximum balance of the assets under management of Mirelis’s U.S. taxpayer-clients was in 2008 and was approximately $315 million, consisting of both assets held in custody at Mirelis and assets held at third-party depository institutions. Mirelis provided custodial account services for approximately 177 U.S. Related Accounts and portfolio and asset management services to an additional approximately 95 U.S. Related Accounts that were custodied at third-party banks. Following the transfer of its activities to Hyposwiss in 2014, Mirelis ceased to conduct any of its former activities (including its provision of independent portfolio and asset management services and its custody of client assets) except for the custody of the accounts of 17 U.S. taxpayer-clients on a temporary basis prior to closure.
Since it began its operations, Mirelis was aware that its U.S. taxpayer-clients had a legal duty to report to the IRS, pay taxes on the basis of, all of the income, including income earned in accounts at Mirelis. Despite being aware of the obligations of its U.S. taxpayer-clients to report to the IRS and pay taxes on income earned in accounts maintained outside of the United States, Mirelis opened, maintained, and serviced accounts for U.S. taxpayer-clients where Mirelis knew or had reason to know that the U.S. taxpayer-clients were not complying with these obligations or were using their accounts outside of the United States to evade U.S. taxes and reporting requirements, filing false tax returns with the IRS, and/or concealing assets maintained outside of the United States from the IRS (hereinafter, “undeclared assets”).
On several occasions, Mirelis facilitated the concealment of U.S. taxpayer-clients’ undeclared accounts through the closure of accounts and transfer of account funds (in whole or in part and temporarily or permanently) to other accounts held at Mirelis where the named account holder and/or beneficial owner were not U.S. persons and may or may not have been related to the U.S. taxpayer-client.
On at least four occasions, in or about 2011 or 2012, Mirelis facilitated the introduction of U.S. taxpayer-clients to the Singapore-based representatives of a trust company, who advised the U.S. taxpayer-clients to create non-U.S. trusts and fund non-U.S. life insurance policies. Mirelis agreed to accept and effect the transfer of the funds held in the U.S. taxpayer-clients’ accounts pursuant to instructions despite knowing or having reason to know that these U.S. taxpayer-clients were likely to use the advice received from the trust company to conceal their ownership of undeclared assets. The funds were transferred to accounts at a third-party depository financial institution outside of Switzerland in the name of a non-U.S. life insurance company that had issued policies owned by the non-U.S. trusts created by Mirelis’s U.S. taxpayer-clients. Mirelis provided independent portfolio and asset management services for these accounts and listed the account holders and clients as the life insurance company. In all four instances, Mirelis believes that the U.S. taxpayer-clients subsequently entered into an offshore voluntary disclosure program (the “OVDP”) offered by the IRS.
In order to reduce the chances of undeclared accounts being discovered, Mirelis opened and falsely designated at least one account as a non-U.S. account when it knew the account holder was in fact a U.S. person. Prior to August 2008, Mirelis opened an account using the client’s U.S. passport. When this account was closed in 2009, the account holder withdrew all funds in cash. In 2010, Mirelis opened another account for the same client, but this time used the client’s non-U.S. passport. The account documents were completed without mention of the client’s U.S. citizenship, which was then known to Mirelis.
On at least five occasions, Mirelis effected the transfer of funds from one U.S. Related Account owned or beneficially owned by individual U.S. taxpayer-clients to other U.S. Related Accounts maintained at Mirelis owned by U.S. limited liability companies, which in turn were owned by U.S. trusts with U.S. beneficiaries. The accounts owned by the limited liability companies were all later closed and the custody of their funds transferred to another Swiss bank (a so-called Category 1 bank) while the independent portfolio and asset management services were provided by Mirelis Advisors, a wholly owned subsidiary that is a registered investment adviser with the SEC. Mirelis effected these transfers without knowing or checking whether the U.S. taxpayer-clients of the original accounts were compliant with their U.S. tax and reporting obligations.
In order to assist U.S. taxpayer-clients for whom Mirelis provided independent portfolio and asset management services, Mirelis agreed to accept custody of at least eight U.S. Related Accounts from Julius Baer, despite knowing that the beneficial owners of such accounts were U.S. taxpayers, that the accounts held undeclared assets, and that the accounts were being terminated by Julius Baer due to the U.S. taxpayer-client’s U.S. citizenship or residency. Mirelis agreed to accept these accounts at least in part on the assurances of its U.S. taxpayer-clients that they would enter into the OVDP. Mirelis’s Management Committee put in place a special policy for such accounts requiring the provision of IRS Forms W-9 and waivers of bank secrecy under the QI regime; however, in certain instances, the Form W-9 was not signed or the account did not hold U.S. securities. At least seven of the U.S. taxpayer-clients associated with these accounts ultimately entered into the OVDP.
Even after instituting a policy to only serve U.S. taxpayer-clients in full compliance with U.S. tax and securities laws in 2010, during a transition period of one year, Mirelis continued to provide both custodial and independent portfolio and asset management services to U.S. taxpayer-clients despite knowing or having reason to know that the U.S. taxpayer-clients were not in full compliance with their U.S. tax and information reporting obligations with respect to several accounts maintained at Mirelis and several accounts maintained at third-party banks.
The services provided by Mirelis to its clients also included a number of traditional Swiss banking services that Mirelis knew or had reason to know could and did in fact assist its U.S. taxpayer-clients in holding undeclared assets, including providing “hold-mail” services whereby Mirelis would hold all account correspondence and statements at its offices until physically retrieved by the client in Switzerland. In addition, Mirelis provided or assisted in the provision of “numbered” account services whereby the account holder’s name was replaced on all correspondence with just the account number or a code name even though Mirelis’s internal records would show the name and identity of the account holder. These services aided in reducing or eliminating paper trails and beneficial ownership information for undeclared accounts and assets of certain of Mirelis’s U.S. taxpayer-clients.
Mirelis also assisted in the establishment of trusts and entities (collectively, “structures”) for U.S. taxpayer-clients with both accounts maintained at Mirelis and accounts maintained at third-party depository financial institutions, in particular at a Category 1 Bank, by making referrals to known purveyors of such structures both within and outside of Switzerland. Mirelis knew or had reason to know that these purveyors often operated structures in contravention of corporate formalities and/or Mirelis’s own policies and procedures and that one purpose of these structures was to add an additional layer of nominal ownership to conceal the U.S. taxpayer-clients’ ownership of undeclared accounts.
With respect to at least 24 U.S. Related Accounts maintained by Mirelis, Mirelis obtained or accepted IRS Forms W-8BEN (or substitute self-certification forms) from these entity account holders that falsely indicated the beneficial owner of the undeclared account was the non-U.S. entity itself and not the U.S. taxpayer-client. These false Forms W-8BEN directly contradicted the Swiss Forms A that Mirelis obtained identifying the U.S. taxpayer-clients as the true beneficial owners of the accounts. Despite knowing that one of the purposes of these arrangements was to further conceal the ownership of undeclared accounts, Mirelis did not contest the claims made on the Forms W-8BEN or equivalent.
With respect to its asset management services to U.S. taxpayer-clients, Mirelis’s responsibility was solely to manage the investment of the assets of the external U.S. taxpayer-clients held on deposit at the third-party financial institutions. Those institutions undertook all other aspects of managing the client relationship, including the responsibility for procuring, updating, and maintaining all “know your customer” and anti-money laundering and terrorism financing information regarding account holder and beneficial owner.
Mirelis, in connection with the due diligence performed following the Atlas acquisition, learned, among other things, that Atlas provided hold mail and numbered account services, assisted in the establishment of structures for U.S. persons, accepted (or did not contest) false IRS Forms W-8BEN regarding the true beneficial ownership of the account; and opened at least 107 accounts in the names of Panamanian corporations in which the beneficial owners were U.S. persons. Most of those 107 accounts were established by one Swiss attorney.
Mirelis took remedial steps starting in 2011 with respect to its then-existing U.S. taxpayer-clients, including implementing a new cross-border policy in June 2011, encouraging clients to enter the OVDP, and shifting its declared clients to its then-newly SEC-registered subsidiary, Mirelis Advisors, S.A.
Mirelis submitted a letter of intent to participate as a Category 2 bank in the Department’s Swiss Bank Program in December 2013. Although it was ultimately determined that Mirelis was not eligible for the Swiss Bank Program due to its structure as both an asset management firm and a bank, Mirelis is required under today’s agreement to fully comply with the obligations imposed under the terms of that program. Mirelis has fully cooperated with the Department of Justice in this investigation, including undertaking a separate and thorough review of the provision of independent portfolio and asset management services to U.S. taxpayer-clients with accounts maintained at third-party depository financial institutions and encouraging a significant number of its remaining non-compliant U.S. taxpayer-clients to participate, or provide proof of prior participation, in OVDP covering many of the U.S. Related Accounts maintained by Mirelis during the Applicable Period.
While U.S. account holders at Mirelis who have not yet declared their accounts to the IRS may still be eligible to participate in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the price of such disclosure has increased. Most U.S. taxpayers who enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to resolve undeclared offshore accounts will pay a penalty equal to 27.5 percent of the high value of the accounts. On Aug. 4, 2014, the IRS increased the penalty to 50 percent if, at the time the taxpayer initiated their disclosure, either a foreign financial institution at which the taxpayer had an account or a facilitator who helped the taxpayer establish or maintain an offshore arrangement had been publicly identified as being under investigation, the recipient of a John Doe summons or cooperating with a government investigation, including the execution of a deferred prosecution agreement or non-prosecution agreement. With the announcement of this non-prosecution agreement, noncompliant U.S. clients of Mirelis must now pay that 50 percent penalty to the IRS if they wish to enter the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program. The IRS recently announced that the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program will close on September 28, 2018.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division thanked the IRS and in particular, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the IRS Large Business & International Division for their substantial assistance. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman also thanked Trial Attorneys Charles M. Duffy and Henry C. Darmstadter, who served as counsel on this matter, as well as Senior Counsel for International Tax Matters and Coordinator of the Swiss Bank Program Thomas J. Sawyer, Senior Litigation Counsel Nanette L. Davis, and Attorney Kimberle E. Dodd.
Note: Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.
Ebola outbreak in DRC ends: WHO calls for international efforts to stop other deadly outbreaks in the country
July 24th, 2018 marked the end of the ninth outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulates the country and all those involved in ending the outbreak, while urging them to extend this success to combatting other diseases in DRC.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, joined Minister of Health Dr Oly Ilunga for the announcement in Kinshasa.
“The outbreak was contained due to the tireless efforts of local teams, the support of partners, the generosity of donors, and the effective leadership of the Ministry of Health. That kind of leadership, allied with strong collaboration between partners, saves lives,” said Dr Tedros.
Unlike previous Ebola outbreaks in the country, this one involved four separate locations, including an urban centre with river connections to the capital and to neighbouring countries, as well as remote rainforest villages. There were initial concerns that the disease could spread to other parts of DRC, and to neighbouring countries.
Within hours of the outbreak being declared on 8 May, WHO released US$2 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies, deployed a team to augment capacity in the field, and activated an emergency incident management system.
“WHO moved quickly and efficiently,” said Dr Moeti, “We also demonstrated the tremendous capacity of the African region. More than three-quarters of the 360 people deployed to respond came from within the region. Dozens of experts from Guinea spent weeks leading Ebola vaccination efforts here, transferring expertise which will enable the DRC to mount an effective response both within its borders and beyond.”
Dr Tedros urged the DRC Government and the international community to build on the positive momentum generated by the quick containment of the Ebola outbreak.
“This effective response to Ebola should make the Government and partners confident that other major outbreaks affecting the country such as cholera and polio can also be tackled,” said Dr Tedros. “We must continue to work together, investing in strengthened preparedness and access to healthcare for the most vulnerable.”
- WHO’s rapid response and scale up of operations in the DRC was funded by a total of US$4 million disbursement from the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE).
- WHO and partners appealed for US$57 million to stop the spread of Ebola. The total funds received by all partners, as tracked by OCHA, amount to US$63 million.
- Funding towards WHO’s contribution to the Ebola response was provided from: Italy (€ 300 000), UN CERF (US$ 800 000), Gavi (US$ 1 million), USAID (US$ 5.3 million), Wellcome Trust and UK-DFID (US$ 4.1 million), UK-DFID (£5 million), Germany (€5 million), Norway (NOK 8 million), Canada (CAD$1 million), World Bank PEF (US$ 6.8 million), Japan (US$1.3 million), EU ECHO (€ 1.5 million) and from the Ebola MPTF (US$ 428,000) bringing the total to approximately US$ 36 million.
- Germany’s contribution is in recognition of the critical role the WHO CFE has played in responding to the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and will go to replenish the CFE, which provided initial funds for the response efforts.
- In-kind contributions for medical evacuation were received from Norway. EU ECHO support was provided for flights between Kinshasa and Mbandaka. Technical expertise was provided by Guinea, the UK, USA and Germany through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN). Merck provided the vaccines that were used to protect over 3300 people.
WHO partners in the DRC Ebola response included the following:
The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo Red Cross), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF), the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa-CDC), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), ECHO, the Department for International Development (DFID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, UNCERF, UNOCHA, MONUSCO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the FAO Emergency Management Centre – Animal Health (EMC-AH), the International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), the UK Public Health Rapid Support team, the EPIET Alumni Network (EAN), the International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Emerging Diseases Clinical Assessment and Response Network (EDCARN), the World Bank and PATH. The Government of Guinea deployed more than 30 Ministry of Health staff to assist with the ring vaccination campaign, and Merck provided the Ebola vaccine. Additional coordination and technical support through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), Association pour le développement de l’épidémiologie de terrain (EPITER), European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab), Infection Control Africa Network (ICAN), Institut Pasteur (IP), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), South Africa, Robert Koch Institut (RKI), and Emergency Medical Teams (EMT)
Video: Ebola outbreak in DRC ends – what made a difference? https://youtu.be/kcTawNsWjlQ