India and Switzerland on Thursday agreed to enhance cooperation in the fight against tax fraud while acknowledging the need for a global level playing field for implementation of the international standards on tax transparency.
A joint statement issued following delegation-level talks headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Swiss President Doris Leuthard said that “both leaders emphasised their willingness to further enhance cooperation in the fight against tax fraud and tax evasion”.
“They acknowledged the importance of a global level playing field for effective implementation of the international standards on tax transparency,” the statement said.
“They noted with satisfaction the signing of the Joint Declaration in November 2016 on the implementation of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) and, in this context, President Leuthard briefed Prime Minister Modi about the ongoing parliamentary procedure in Switzerland,” it said.
Addressing the media with the visiting dignitary after the delegation-level talks, Modi said India will continue to work with Switzerland to combat black money while the Swiss President stressed that her country has one of the strongest laws against money laundering.
“Transparency in financial transactions is an issue of concern in today’s world, whether it be black money, dirty money, hawala or arms and drugs financing,” Modi said.
“To combat this global problem, we will continue to cooperate with Switzerland,” he said.
Modi said that with two countries signing a joint declaration for automatic exchange of tax information last year, India will get such information on an automatic basis once it is internally ratified in Switzerland.
On her part, Leuthard said that the law was now with the Swiss Parliament for ratification and hoped that such information can be shared with India from 2019 onwards.
“This is important because Switzerland is, and will be, an important financial place and we have all interest to be transparent, cooperative, and a good reliable partner,” she said, adding that both her country and India can go hand in hand on this.
Leuthard said Switzerland had one of the strongest laws against money laundering and hoped other countries will follow suit.
According to the joint statement, Modi also expressed his expectation that Switzerland will implement the recommendations of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information in Tax Matters with the view to further improve mutual administrative assistance in tax matters, the statement said.
In his address to the media, the Prime Minister said foreign direct investment is an important pillar of economic cooperation between India and Switzerland. “We specially welcome Swiss investors in India.
“We agreed to continue discussions on a bilateral investment agreement. Swiss companies have a lot of expertise to partner India in its road to development.”
Modi said that in a meeting of business leaders of the two countries he attended along with Leuthard, it was clear that both sides were eager to have business-to-business collaborations.
The Swiss President said she discussed with Modi the issue of an investor protection agreement on which negotiations were underway.
Switzerland is the seventh largest trading partner for India with a total bilateral trade, including merchandise exports, bullion and IT services and software exports, of $18.2 billion in 2016-17.
From April 2000 to September 2016, Switzerland invested approximately $3.57 billion in India, thus becoming the 11th largest investor and accounting for about 1.2 per cent of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in India.
Stating that the proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and India also came up for discussion, Modi said that both sides were committed to an early conclusion of this.
He also said that both countries have agreed to work together for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Following Thursday’s talks, the two countries signed two agreements on cooperation in the railway sector.
Leuthard arrived here on Wednesday on a four-day visit to India. Swiss Presidents have earlier visited India in 1998, 2003, and 2007.
Modi visited Switzerland in June 2016 in what was the first prime ministerial visit from India to that country in several decades.