Questions to the ÖVP on Trade and Tax Policy

At the occasion of the forthcoming elections of the European Parliament we have asked the ÖVP (Austrian branch of the EVP) questions on trade and tax policy. If you have any questions yourself you can send an email to <team@sebastian-kurz.at>.

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Dear Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz,

I have recently become increasingly worried about trade agreements involving corporate arbitration tribunals (ISDS). By ISDS taxpayers have to pay for assumed future profits of corporations whenever the state enacts new social or environmental laws that can reduce corporations' profits. Why is the ÖVP always voting for agreements with such investment clauses at EU level and in Austria, most recently for EUSIPA with Singapore, although trade agreements without them (EUSIPA was separate from the trade agreement with Singapore) would also be possible. I think that this should be done on behalf of our hard-working population as those corporations that can benefit from arbitration tribunals are generally also big corporations that can shift their profits between different countries and therefore pay very little tax (sometimes less than 1%).

Yours sincerely,
Elmar Stellnberger
response:
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Dear Mr. Stellnberger,

Thank you for your message. Trade agreements revive the economy and secure jobs. Therefore this federal government has agreed on a clear commitment for an active trade policy as essential support of the Austrian export industry through fair, transparently negotiated and qualitatively well-made trade agreements also in the government program. Austria is an export country, we live from international trade. In any case it is important for us to preserve Austrian rules and standards in particular the protection of our consumers.

Sincerely, your
Team Kurz
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Dear Team Kurz

Concerning the effects of TTIP on our economy the information I have is contradictory. One side claims that it would promote the economy, the other that it would be a disadvantage for us and that only the US would profit (see also http://www.elstel.org/TTIP.html.en). Many of these trade agreements lead to job losses through synergy effects in large corporations as only one or a few market players can position themselves internationally as top players in one category and thus concurrent facilities in different countries are reduced. TTIP is not the only trade agreement that includes ISDS clauses. If such a trade agreement revives the economy then it's fine. However that does not answer my question why you are not trying to adopt such trade agreements without ISDS clauses. The economy would benefit as well, just that the taxpayer would be relieved to pay for losses in profits of large corporations.

Negotiations for TTIP and CETA were anything but transparent (kept secret behind closed doors). I believe that transparency would also include a corresponding reflection of these trade deals in the media. However this has not happened at all especially not with JEFTA and EUSIPA.

How does the ÖVP try to include environmental standards in future trade agreements? I have heard that at least for JEFTA and CETA an environmental clause has been included so that the climate protection efforts under the Paris Treaty can not be undermined. In an article on euractiv.de (1019-03-28) I have read that Joseph Stiglitz recommends the EU to work together with China on the climate issue and sue the United States in front of the WTO. The European countries should not suffer economic disadvantage because they commit themselves to climate protection. What is the opinion of the ÖVP on this question?

Yours sincerely,
Elmar Stellnberger
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Dear Team Kurz

Why does the ÖVP continue to block legislation on EU level when it comes to reveal who is behind letterbox companies, foundations and trusts? It would also be necessary to make public how much profit multinational corporations earn and where and how much tax they pay. That would be a prerequisite for a fairer taxation of multinational corporations and super-rich individuals. Why did you not support country-by-country reporting as Austria still held the EU Presidency? Wouldn´t that have been an opportunity? Christine Lagarde has recently stated that especially developing and emerging countries lack that money for urgently needed investments in infrastructure and labour forces (https://orf.at/stories/3117378/).

Yours sincerely,
Elmar Stellnberger
response:
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Dear Mr. Stellnberger,

Thank you for your feedback. TTIP is history and the negotiations have been stopped.

CETA is in force - and it is precisely the agreement that proves that comprehensive and successful negotiations have taken place and that many improvements have been made during the process (we: CETA also includes ISDS but Wallonia (Belgium) has currently stopped CETA-ISDS by its veto.).

Trade agreements must always be designed in such a way that a win-win situation arises for both sides. Therefore we support a clear yes to an agreement if it is well done. Austria has over 90 trade agreements and as exporting countries we need these agreements.

If you are more interested in and would like to contribute directly we recommend that you contact the ministry of economic affairs: service@bmdw.gv.at As part of the Austrian EU Presidency last year we also successfully set the course for a more effective implementation of safeguard clauses in free trade agreements. Previously such provisions had to be regulated by a separate legislative procedure. Now a uniform framework will be made available for all future free trade agreements.

Sincerely, your
Team Kurz
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Thank you for your fast response!

Do you also have a position on the demand of Mr. Joseph Stiglitz on action against competition disadvantages due to the factual termination of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change by the USA?

see: https://www.euractiv.de/section/energie-und-umwelt/news/stiglitz-eu-und-china-sollten-amerika-bestrafen/

With kind regards,
Elmar Stellnberger

There were no further responses.

Post Scriptum: It is fair to say that the ÖVP was the first to impose a digital tax for the advertising revenue of big Internet corporations such as Google. However the additional revenue is far less than the cost of their corporate tax reduction which mainly benefits big corporations. Also the grand coalition in Germany continues to block the tax transparency law. We believe that a fairer taxation of large corporations (The usually pay less than 1% tax) is overdue. They have already outsourced their production long ago.

you could also be interested in: the FPÖ as a homeland party for Austria.