Friday, May 25 – Representatives of the European Union’s overseas territories attending the conference The Outlook for Financial Services Regulation Conference, which concluded in the British Virgin Islands on Tuesday, agreed that they must work more closely together to maintain the good reputations of international finance centres and to deal with international challenges.

They concluded that building good centres attracted good business and was important because international finance centres play a key role in the stabilisation of the world economy.  Conference participants noted, however, that different standards were being applied to so-called “offshore” centres in the territories like the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands than those standards set for “onshore” ones such as the United States and the United Kingdom.  The territories maintained that their centres were in some cases more compliant in meeting international regulatory standards set by bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but often they were not given the recognition they deserved for such compliance.

All participants emphasised that undertaking the business of international finance, whether offshore or onshore, comes with obligations and responsibilities.

The territories recognised the importance of maintaining clean and well-regulated jurisdictions at all times and restated their desire to be more involved on a level playing field basis in developing and shaping international standards of regulation. The said their involvement would better ensure a balanced approach to dealing with real or perceived infractions of good regulation.

While IFCs are under the spotlight today as much as they have ever been, they maintain that most of their centres continue to behave responsibly as players in the global financial system.  They said that while achieving a level playing field in the global finance centre is a challenge, they are committed to working towards it.  A level playing fields means that there are genuine international standards for all centres, be they onshore or offshore or in independent countries or territories. Without a level playing field, they say, they are at a competitive disadvantage and the very objectives that regulatory standards seek to achieve are undermined.

Without a level playing field, the territories said, they were at a competitive disadvantage and the very objectives that regulatory standards seek to achieve were undermined.

Delegates concluded that more, better and equitable cooperation between all players and stakeholders in the global financial system was essential.

The conference was organised by the BVI International Affairs Secretariat with assistance from Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the European Union and funding from the European Commission.  The Conference was held at the Long Bay Beach Resort in Tortola, British Virgin Islands May 21 -22, 2007.  The conference aimed to encourage discussion and understanding between international organisations and overseas countries and territories with finance centres and those considering establishing such centres.

The conference was attended by representatives from Anguilla, Aruba, Bermuda, BVI, Cayman Islands, French Polynesia, Greenland, Isle of Man, Mayotte, Montserrat, Netherlands, and the Netherland Antilles, and from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the International Monetary Fund, and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Financial Services Authority and the Netherlands Central Bank and Finance Ministry.

Gilbert Morris of Landfall Centre, Bahamas, Dr. Jason Sharman of Griffith University, Australia, and Professor William Byrnes of St. Thomas University School of Law, Florida, made stimulating presentations about the role and treatment of offshore finance centres.

The Conference was officially opened by Director of the BVI International Affairs Secretariat Lorna Smith, Governor David Pearey, Chief Minister Dr. D. Orlando Smith and OCTA President Clive Stanbrook QC.

Speakers included BVI’s Attorney General Cherno Jallow QC and Managing Director and
CEO of the Financial Services Commission Robert Mathavious, whose presentation focused on the importance of reputation to international finance centres.

The OCTA President commended the BVI for hosting the conference and the Territory’s leadership role in offshore financial services circles.