PM describes Opposition Leader’s letter to President Trump as act of desperation

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan, 27, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has described as an “act of desperation” the letter written by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar to United States President Donald Trump regarding the United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) legislation.
The government and the opposition legislators have been at odds over the passage of the legislation enacted by the United States government in March 2010.
Earlier this month, the Keith Rowley government bowed to opposition demands that the legislation be sent to a joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament even as Finance Minister Colm Imbert, accused the opposition of being “deadly scared” of having to meet with some of the criteria outlined in the legislation, including having to report US bank accounts to the appropriate American authorities.
“They want to be able to say that they are not supporting the legislation because they are awaiting word from the US President or that he is considering their request,” Prime Minister Rowley told the Trinidad Express newspaper, Friday.
“They first used the issue of the Joint Select Committee to obfuscate. And now that the Joint Select Committee is meeting, they are looking for another reason to sustain their objection to the bill. And they now want to be able to say that US President Donald Trump is considering their request and that FATCA is ephemeral. But the real issue is that they are mortally afraid of the legislation for reasons which are best known to them,” Rowley told the newspaper.
In her two page letter , Persad Bissessar told Trump that the purpose for writing him was the law enacted by his predecessor Barack Obama which had become the “subject of sharp controversy here in Trinidad and Tobago.
” It would be helpful for us to know if the relevant US law may soon be nullified, either by legislative or executive action, or both,” she wrote, acknowledging that the matter is befiore a joint select committee of the Parliament here.
She reminded President Trump that among his campaign promises was revocation of executive actions taken by his predecessor which exceeded his authority as President.
“This would appear to cover non-treaty Inter-Governmental Agreements with Trinidad and Tobago and many other countries to implement FATCA under terms not codified in US statute or treaty terms,” she said.
She said she had been “informed that a FATCA repeal bill might be among the reforms included in Trump’s comprehensive legislative package.
“Whatever information you may provide about how your administration intends to proceed would be much appreciated so that the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago may have a better sense how we might proceed,” she wrote to Trump indicating that she was awaiting his earliest reply.
But Rowley warned that the failure to pass the legislation by the deadline, had the potential to completely upset the economic stability of the country.
Earlier this month, outgoing United States Ambassador, John Estrada, accused “some folks” here of deliberately peddling misinformation about the legislation, noting there’s a lot of innuendo, wrong information being put out on FATCA.
“To the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago they need to understand that FATCA is a United States law. It is not a presidential decree of sort. It is a law passed by our Congress,” he said.
FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report directly to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) all clients who are US citizens, green card holders living in the US or abroad, or foreign entities in which US taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.
The deadline for passing the legislation is the end of February and the government needs the support of the opposition for the special majority needed to pass the bill.
Estrada told television viewers that when he went to the United States last September and earlier this month seeking an extension for Trinidad and Tobago, he had informed Washington “this can will be kicked down the road because there are some folks, some of them are fighting this (and) probably have cocoa in the sun as you say here.
“There are some of them, and I stand by it,” he said reiterating that the legislation “targets US citizens, folks who are involved in tax evasion, money laundering, terrorism financing, illegal accumulation of wealth and yet we have folks saying this is trampling on the rights of the ordinary Trinbagonian”.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has taken to social media warning Trinidad and Tobago nationals that they could face higher grocery bills, transportation costs and the overall ease of doing business negatively impacted if the country fails to pass the FACTA legislation.
The OPM warned that under FATCA, US financial institutions must withhold 30 per cent of payments made to foreign financial institutions that do not agree to identify and report information on their US account holders.
“The severity of this penalty becomes clearer when we examine how dependent our day-to-day transactions are on access to the US financial system. Our ability to import food and raw materials for our manufacturing sector, make purchases with credit cards, do money transfers and buy online are all reliant on our banks maintaining a relationship with the US financial sector,” the OPM said.
It said that the law was “designed to identify US persons living abroad or with assets and business interest s outside of the US for tax collection purposes,” warning that the severity of the penalty for failure to pass the law “become clearer when we examine how dependent our day to day  transactions are on access to the US financial system”.

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