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Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that his opposition to a free-trade agreement with Panama accurately predicted some of the revelations in the so-called Panama Papers.
The Democratic presidential candidate said a 2011 speech he delivered on the Senate floor in opposition to the Panama Free Trade Agreement had accurately laid out the way the country could be used as a tax shelter.
In his Tuesday statement, Sanders said:
I predicted that the passage of this disastrous trade deal would make it easier, not harder, for the wealthy and large corporations to evade taxes by sheltering billions of dollars offshore. I wish I had been proven wrong about this, but it has now come to light that the extent of Panama’s tax avoidance scams is even worse than I had feared.
On Sunday, a massive document leak from a global law firm based in Panama revealed the offshore holdings of 140 public figures. Fallout from the Panama Papers has already spurred the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister.
Sanders’ lengthy Tuesday statement jabbed his primary rival, Hillary Clinton, for supporting the Obama administration-backed agreement while she served as secretary of state. Sanders argued that the agreement exacerbated how wealthy companies and individuals sheltered money in Panama. However, as Slate noted, it’s unclear if the agreement directly worsened the situation.
“My opponent, on the other hand, opposed this trade agreement when she was running against Barack Obama for president in 2008,” Sanders said. “But when it really mattered she quickly reversed course and helped push the Panama Free Trade Agreement through Congress as Secretary of State. The results have been a disaster.”
The senator pledged to end the Panamanian free-trade agreement “within six months.” He further promised to investigate and prosecute US corporations and wealthy individuals who have broken laws while “stashing their cash in Panama to avoid taxes.”
President Barack Obama addressed the Panama Papers revelations at a Tuesday press conference, which he held to promote new federal initiatives aimed at curbing corporate inversions. Obama, pushing for tax reform, argued that a lot of international tax-evasion schemes are currently legal.