JAMAICA OBSERVER – A senior Antigua government minister says Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries will along with countries in Latin America speak with one voice opposing plans by the United States to target their nationals residing in the North American country to help President Donald Trump build his much touted multi-billion dollar US-Mexico border wall.
US legislators are seeking to impose a two per cent tax on all remittances sent by nationals of Belize, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana and Suriname to friends and relatives.
These Caribbean countries are among a number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean highlighted by the US legislators to help fund the wall, a major campaign promise of Trump and estimated at US$21.6 billion.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Fernandez, speaking on the state-owned ABS Television, said the new measures being advocated could result in the remittances system going underground.
“Whatever tax you put on it even though it sounds like a little bit, two per cent it could cause a number of people to want to drive this outside of the regulatory banking system and that could be of concern…because you could get into all kinds of monies moving around in actual hard currencies.
“The other thing about it is that the President had said…Mexico was going to pay for the wall, clearly now it is anybody who is doing transfers will pay for it.
“As regards to the Caribbean, I think Jamaica probably will be the biggest one affected. In 2015, Jamaica had something like US$1.5 billion sent from America alone to Jamaica in remittances,” he added.
Fernandez said that while the Gaston Browne administration has not yet officially discussed the new US measure, it is aware of the situation.
“We haven’t discussed it in any detail, but I think CARICOM and the other countries in Latin America will want obviously to speak with one voice on this and say we have some concerns and raise a number of issues,” he told television viewers.
The Border Wall Funding Act Introduced to the House of Representatives on March 30, seeks to amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to impose a fee for remittance transfers to certain foreign countries, and for other purposes.
“If the designated recipient of a remittance transfer is located in a foreign country described in subparagraph (B), a remittance transfer provider shall collect from the sender of such remittance transfer a remittance fee equal to two per cent of the United States dollar amount to be transferred (excluding any fees or other charges imposed by the remittance transfer provider),” the bill notes.
Last month, the proposed bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and the House’s Committees on Financial Services, Foreign Affairs and Judiciary.
The law is expected to have a five-year life-span during which the monies will be submitted to the US Treasury “to be expended for the purpose of improving border security.”