Majuro (Marshall Islands) (AFP) – The Marshall Islands has described its inclusion on a European Union tax haven blacklist as “sad”, with the Pacific nation’s chamber of commerce alleging the move was politically motivated.
The EU on Tuesday unveiled a list of 17 states it said were “non-cooperative” and failed to meet good governance guidelines.
The list is the first time the EU has named and shamed in such a manner and its release comes a year after the leaked “Panama Papers” revealed how the world’s wealthy stash their assets.
Marshall Islands Finance Minister Brenson Wase said he was disappointed at his country’s inclusion, saying it had already committed to fixing any deficiencies in its tax system by the end of next year.
Wase said there appeared to be a lack of communication between the EU and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is helping the Marshalls address its tax issues.
“The EU blacklisting is very sad,” he told a business forum in Majuro on Thursday.
“We have been working with the EU and the OECD… the EU has unilaterally blacklisted us without working with the OECD (tax) group.”
The Marshalls, a tiny atoll nation with a population of just 55,000, operates one of the world’s largest ship registries, allowing vessels to register there under a “flag of convenience”.
Marshall Islands Chamber of Commerce President James McLean said he was concerned the listing would tarnish the country’s reputation and appealed for help from the United States, which dominates the local economy.
“There are politics involved,” he said. “None of the UK-associated areas were included in the EU blacklist.
“A diplomatic note to the US embassy to get their help on this (would be good). We’ll be negatively affected unless we can get off the blacklist. It affects the country’s reputation and affects trade.”
Other Pacific states on the list include Samoa, Palau and the US territory of Guam. None responded to requests for comment.