***Switzerland Ready and Willing to Participate***
Swiss Federation President and Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz is participating in a meeting of finance minister from 19 OECD countries in Berlin today. In remarks to his colleagues, he said that complying with international standards on the exchange of tax information should not be only about the number of agreements a country can negotiate. *”The mere existence of an arbitrary number of agreements says nothing about the quality of information exchanged.”*
The OECD has set a quota of 12 agreements on tax information exchange to determine whether a jurisdiction is cooperating. President Merz called on the OECD to establish a system of peer review to check if countries were complying with international standards. He said, *“A real level playing field requires an impartial and transparent assessment mechanism that monitors effective implementation of the standard,”* and warned that international action against tax fraud and evasion should not include protectionist measures, a curtailing of tax competition or sanctions against other countries.
At the same meeting, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria also commented on the quote, saying, *”While the 12 agreement threshold is a good indicator of progress, it should not be seen as just a “numbers game. All countries must aim to have high quality agreements which are effectively implemented with all interested countries.”*
President Merz referred to the different tax cultures in countries. He emphasised that Switzerland is a reliable partner in the international context. He once again rejected as untenable the allegation that Switzerland is a tax haven. And, he reiterated Switzerland’s willingness to swiftly implement the March 13 decision of the Federal Council to withdraw its reservation to Article 26 of the OECD Model Tax Convention. He said Switzerland immediately followed this decision with deeds, referring to the six double taxation agreements (DTAs) which have been renegotiated since then.
The President’s Statement also included a reiteration of the importance of shared responsibility for international cooperation in tax matters – that is, by states where bank deposits are held as well as states where the owners of the capital live. He rejected efforts to suppress cross-border capital flows using protectionist measures.
**Level Playing Field**
At the meeting, President Merz called for equal treatment for all states and market participants, i.e. a level playing field. He demanded that all countries featured on the lists of the OECD and the G20 be treated on the same terms. All financial centres should apply the same norms, and their implementation should be reviewed in the same way. He emphasised Switzerland’s demand for a transparent monitoring process based on objective and jointly-determined criteria in the implementation of the exchange of information.
The President argued firmly against excluding the participation of OECD member states such as Switzerland when compiling such lists in future.