Bermuda’s Enhanced International Stature

By Laura Semos, Treaty Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Bermuda (04/02/2010)

Bermuda has never had a history of resting on its laurels. The Island had much to celebrate when the Ministry of Finance announced Bermuda as the first country to ascend from the “grey list” to the “white list” as compiled by the G20 during its London Summit on 2 April 2009. The announcement was coincident with the milestone signing of Bermuda’s twelfth tax information exchange agreement (TIEA) on 8 June 2009 with the Netherlands.

Not too long after the 8 June signing, the Minister of Finance, the Hon. Paula A. Cox, announced on 2 September 2009 that Bermuda was elected a Vice-Chair of the Steering Group of the new Global Forum at the 5th Meeting of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes held in Mexico City 1-2 September 2009. Over 70 jurisdictions and international organisations were represented by 178 delegates who met in Mexico to discuss progress made in implementing the new international tax standards, and how to respond to international calls to strengthen the work of the Global Forum.

The Global Forum elected Australia as the Chair of the new Global Forum, and China, Germany and Bermuda as Vice-Chairs.

In commenting on Bermuda’s new position as Vice-Chair of the new Global Forum, Minister Cox stated: “I am delighted to report Bermuda’s latest achievement in receiving well-deserved recognition and support from both OECD and non-OECD members alike of the Global Forum.  Bermuda is honoured to share responsibility for advancing international cooperation in tax information exchange.  We take the responsibility very seriously to represent all members of the Global Forum in achieving a global level-playing field based on fairness and transparency.”

Minister Cox continued, “[i]t is a reflection of Bermuda holding the top ranking as a white-listed jurisdiction. Bermuda’s proactive and high-level commitment to supporting the OECD initiative has clearly been duly noted. Our jurisdiction has worked diligently for almost two decades to arrive at this juncture today, with our first TIEA with the United States in 1988, our commitment to uphold the OECD’s standards in 2000, and the fourteen TIEAs we negotiated with our treaty partners on a bilateral basis, to name a few examples.”

What is particularly notable is that Bermuda is the only small international financial centre to be elected to the Steering Group in the capacity of Vice-Chair. The Steering Group is the policy-making body of the OECD Global Forum. 

In this achievement, Minister Cox commended the astute diplomatic achievements of Assistant Financial Secretary, Wayne Brown, treaty advisor Laura Semos and treaty negotiation team member for Latin America, Eduardo Fox (a private sector partner), who all represented Bermuda admirably at the Global Forum meetings.  

Minister Cox also noted: “The Financial Secretary, Mr. Donald Scott, demonstrated strategic vision and leadership in establishing the Treaty Unit. This effective Unit is providing value for money as they continue to redouble their efforts as part of the key Ministry of Finance team to ensure we have a seat at the table when important and pivotal decisions are made that can enhance and serve Bermuda’s national interest.”

For Bermuda’s achievement, our Island now shares responsibility in advancing international cooperation in tax information exchange, signifying to the world that Bermuda is a significant player in the global financial system, contributing to international financial stability, recovery from the present global financial crisis, and setting new standards for establishing the principles that all financial players must abide by to ensure a global level-playing field based on fairness and transparency.

When the G20 Group of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors congregated in Pittsburgh, PA, later in September 2009, they were presented with a report from the OECD Global Forum. Bermuda’s contributions and our commitment to global standards and our strong governance in these matters are noted in the report. 

The importance of this for Bermuda, politically and economically, can not be understated. Safeguarding our reputation as a well-regulated, innovative and advanced financial services jurisdiction is crucial to the Bermudian people, our local businesses, guest workers and international investors. Success in these collective efforts will help to ensure continued prosperity for the generations to come.