Cameron Says ‘Smell the Coffee’ as He Vows Tax Fight, Trade Push

Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. will use its presidency of the Group of Eight this year to press for a trade deal between the European Union and the U.S. and a global crackdown against tax evasion and avoidance.

“We’re going to push for more openness on trade,” he told the World Economic Forum today in Davos, Switzerland. “The EU and U.S. together make up nearly a third of all global trade. Agreeing all the EU deals on the table could increase our GDP by 2 percent and create over 2 million jobs across the EU.”

The U.S. is the EU’s top customer. It bought 261 billion euros ($348 billion) of European merchandise in 2011, 17 percent of the total, according to European Commission data. The EU imported 184 billion euros of goods from the U.S., 11 percent of total imports. European leaders are also set to press for trade pacts with Canada and Japan to invigorate the economy as the debt crisis recedes, a document prepared for their next summit shows.

Taking questions after his speech, Cameron said an EU-U.S. agreement was “the first thing on my wish list” and urged his business audience to lobby their politicians to support a deal.

On tax, an issue that has seen companies including Inc., Google Inc. and Starbucks Corp. summoned before British lawmakers to explain their use of complex accounting methods to reduce their tax liabilities in the U.K., Cameron warned firms to “wake up and smell the coffee because the public who buy from them have had enough.”

‘Act Together’

With the tax rate on corporate profits set to fall to 21 percent in 2014 from 23 percent this year, companies that do business in the U.K. are expected to pay their “fair share” of tax, he said. He said the G-8 will explore whether countries can “act together” to prevent international firms avoiding tax.

Cameron said developing countries were suffering because of corruption and a lack of information about who owned what.

“So we’re going to push for more transparency on who owns companies, on who’s buying up land and for what purpose, on how governments spend their money, on how gas, oil and mining companies operate, on who is hiding stolen assets and how we recover and return them,” he said.

Speaking a day after promising British voters a referendum by late 2017 on whether to stay in the EU on new terms or leave, Cameron denied his policies risk putting off investors and said he is pursuing a “resolutely pro-business” agenda.