Major economies raise red flags over Facebook’s Libra

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the proposed French tax on tech giants would stand until the G7 reaches an agreement on taxing digital business. (AP)
Updated 19 July 2019

Major economies raise red flags over Facebook’s Libra

  • Facebook has proposed creating Libra as a cryptocurrency that is pegged to existing currencies to make it more stable than the likes of Bitcoin

CHANTILLY: Top finance officials from the Group of Seven rich democracies are warning that cryptocurrencies such as Facebook’s Libra should not come into use before “serious regulatory and systemic concerns” are addressed.

The chairman’s concluding summary from the G7 meeting in Chantilly, France, says the officials agreed that so-called stablecoins — cryptocurrencies pegged to real currencies — will have to meet “the highest standards” of financial regulation to prevent money laundering or threats to the stability of the banking and financial system.

The statement says finance ministers, including French host Bruno Le Maire and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, agreed that those concerns must be addressed “before such projects can be implemented.”

Facebook has proposed creating Libra as a cryptocurrency that is pegged to existing currencies to make it more stable than the likes of Bitcoin, so that it can used as a way to pay for things. Governments around the world are rushing to assess how that would affect the economy.

Le Maire said that the G7 officials noted that while stable cryptocurrencies such as Libra could reduce costs for transfers and help provide financial services to underserved communities, they would need to be accountable to governments, not just corporations. Libra could, for example, facilitate money laundering and terrorist financing and influence the value of established currencies.

The views echo criticism from US lawmakers this week, who in hearings in Washington said they cannot trust Facebook with a big project such as Libra after recent data privacy scandals.

The G7 summary says that the countries also expect the outlines of a global agreement on taxing digital business by next January. It said the agreement would allow companies to be taxed in countries where they have no physical presence and provide for an arbitration forum.

The US and France in particular are at odds on the issue after Paris said it would put a 3 percent tax on tech giants like Facebook and Google that are typically based in the US. Mnuchin objected to the plan when meeting with Le Maire.

Le Maire said that the current agreement needed to result in a final decision before France could withdraw its tax, but that the process was moving “in the right direction.”

The G7 finance meeting will set the stage for a summit of the countries’ heads of state and government in August. Beyond the US and France, the G7 includes Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada and representatives from the EU.


Huawei given 90 days to buy from US suppliers

Trader Tommy Kalikas works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. (AP)
Updated 20 August 2019

Huawei given 90 days to buy from US suppliers

  • Shortly after blacklisting the company in May, the Commerce Department initially allowed Huawei to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers

WASHINGTON: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday the US government will extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from US companies so that it can service existing customers, even as nearly 50 of its units were being added to a US economic blacklist.
The “temporary general license,” due to expire on Monday, will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, he told Fox Business Network Monday, confirming an expected decision first reported Friday by Reuters. He also said he was adding 46 Huawei affiliates to the Entity List, raising the total number to more than 100 Huawei entities that are covered by the restrictions.
Ross said the extension was to aid US customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.
“We’re giving them a little more time to wean themselves off,” Ross said.
Shortly after blacklisting the company in May, the Commerce Department initially allowed Huawei to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers.
The extension, through Nov. 19, renews an agreement continuing the Chinese company’s ability to maintain existing telecommunications networks and provide software updates to Huawei handsets.
Asked what will happen in November to US companies, Ross said: “Everybody has had plenty of notice of it, there have been plenty of discussions with the president.”
When the Commerce Department blocked Huawei from buying US goods earlier this year, it was seen as a major escalation in the Sino-US trade war.
The US government blacklisted Huawei, alleging the Chinese company is involved in activities contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.

BACKGROUND

The US blacklisted Huawei, alleging the Chinese company was involved in activities contrary to national security or foreign policy interests.

As an example, the blacklisting order cited a pending federal criminal case concerning allegations Huawei violated US sanctions against Iran. Huawei has pleaded not guilty in the case.

The order noted that the indictment also accused Huawei of “deceptive and obstructive acts.”
At the same time the US says Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has repeatedly denied.
Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without additional special licenses.
Many Huawei suppliers have requested the special licenses to sell to the firm. Ross told reporters late last month he had received more than 50 applications, and that he expected to receive more. He said on Monday that there were no “specific licenses being granted for anything.”