US-French tax fraud pact derailed by shutdown

The US government shutdown claimed another victim on Thursday, as the signing of a US-French agreement that battles tax evasion was delayed at the request of the Americans.

US-French tax fraud pact derailed by shutdown
US France tax faud pact has been hit by shutdown. Photo: Getty/AFP

France was ready to sign the pact providing for information exchange on the offshore financial accounts of US citizens, but the shutdown caused by a budget impasse would not allow it to go forward, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said.

"We were supposed to sign the French-US convention implementing FATCA which, unfortunately, must be delayed at the request of the Americans because of the shutdown and the working conditions at the US Treasury," Moscovici said at a news conference  in Washington.

The US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)  aims to block Americans from hiding taxable money around the world. It requires foreign financial institutions to report all assets in accounts held by US citizens to the Internal Revenue Service.

France and the United States had hoped to use the occasion of this week's International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings, and a Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers, to seal their deal in Washington.

But the shutdown of nonessential services has hamstrung US government agencies and sent hundreds of thousands of civil servants home without pay.

Moscovici sounded optimistic that US politicians would find a way out of their political standoff.

"I am convinced that an exit to the crisis is going to be found," he said as the US federal government shutdown dragged on for a 10th day.

The French finance minister dismissed the possibility that the budget battle would force the United States into default for the first time in its history.

"A US payment default would be so serious that it is improbable, even impossible," he said.

The US Treasury estimates it will run out of room to move under the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit as soon as October 17, leaving it unable to pay some bills.

Moscovici added that he shared the view of European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, who said Thursday: "The world still doesn't believe that the US will not find a way out of this."

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‘We have a lot to do’: Macron congratulates Joe Biden on winning US presidential election

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday congratulated US president-elect Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris on their election victory.

'We have a lot to do': Macron congratulates Joe Biden on winning US presidential election
Joe Biden. AFP

“The Americans have chosen their president,” said Macron

“We have a lot to do to overcome today's challenges. Let's work together!” Macron tweeted, in French and English, after major US media networks announced Biden's victory over incumbent Donald Trump.

Macron has never met Biden, who will in January become the 46th president of the United States.

France under Macron is keen for Europe to move away from its reliance on US military might, for defence in particular.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo reacted to Biden's win by saying “Welcome back America”.


Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday reinforced recent statements from Paris that the nature of US-EU relations had permanently changed under Trump.

Europe needs to build a “new trans-atlantic relationship, which is a new partnership” irrespective of who wins, he said then.

“We cannot go back to the status quo ante, to a kind of good old days in the trans-atlantic relationship,” as Europe affirms its sovereignty in security, defence and strategic autonomy, Le Drian added.

Apart from the far right, the French political class generally hailed Biden's victory at the polls, which saw him win more votes than any other US president in history.

Former French president Francois Hollande, who was in office when Trump came to power in 2016, welcomed the “good news for American democracy”.

Biden has promised to return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement after Trump pulled out of it.

Hollande hailed the “happy news for the planet with the return of United States in the climate agreement”.