Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fan out and kill strategy as lead up to G8/G20

It's all ministerial hands on deck today for a big international push on this: "Ministers fan out to kill global bank tax proposal." Irrespective of how you feel about the prospect of an international bank tax, this effort will likely be fruitless and it's ill-timed.
Canada will mount a world-wide campaign Tuesday against a global bank tax by deploying four cabinet ministers in far-flung political and financial centres around the world Tuesday in a bid to kill the proposal.
Five Conservative cabinet ministers will deliver speeches in four major cities on Tuesday that will essentially trash the tax, while calling for stronger regulations for financial markets.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Treasury Board President Stockwell Day, International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Industry Minister Tony Clement will bolster Harper's remarks with events in Mumbai, Shanghai, Washington and Ottawa.
It's almost like their domestic political attack mode is now being taken international yet instead of bashing the Liberals et al., this time, the receiving end, for all intents and purposes, will be the European countries and the U.S. who are actually pushing for a bank tax. It seems destructive, it's not a consensus building strategy leading into the G8/G20 summits.

And it's not like this international push is likely to win over those who are supporting the tax, that's doubtful. Treasury Secretary Geithner basically said as much in Washington at the end of April at a meeting of the G20 finance ministers, that they'd do what's necessary for the U.S., irrespective of what Canada's position is. A commitment to a bank tax is also found in the U.K. coalition government's negotiated agreement ("We agree that a banking levy will be introduced. We will seek a detailed agreement on implementation.")

Harper's anti-bank tax push is probably just going to help reinforce divisions within the G20 over the tax, going into the meetings. The divisive Harper domestic strategy gone international, in a sense. Those events in Mumbai and Shanghai in particular are likely being done for that reason.

Anyway, in the bigger picture, it seems a little ill-timed to be fanning out around the world in some kind of hyper politicized campaign to rail against this bank tax at a time when the European countries (and the U.S.) are preoccupied with a drowning Greece and the fears that its crisis will spread. The world knows our pious position well, this just doesn't seem like helpful international engagement for Canada at a sensitive moment.