Vanuatu woos HK, mainland firms
The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu yesterday opened a trade office in Hong Kong, angling itself as an offshore incorporation destination for mainland and Hong Kong firms.
Vanuatu's sales pitch follows its exclusion from the 'list of unco-operative tax havens' published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
'It will only take half a day for a company to register [in Vanuatu] because things can be done in this office,' said Timothy Cheung, the chief executive of Vanuatu International Companies, an agency that represents the island's trade commission. 'It will cost less than HK$4,000, cheaper than the going market rate.'
Cheung also pointed out that the presence of a Chinese embassy in Vanuatu would make it easier for Chinese companies to have their documents legally authenticated.
Like its competitors the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, Vanuatu entered the OECD's 'white list' last month after agreeing to implement internationally agreed tax standards. It had been put on the 'grey list' in 2002 when it refused to make commitments regarding transparency and exchange of information the OECD sought.
The island still exempts offshore companies from taxes and retains a high degree of confidentiality on company disclosures, as the country's law protects information such as the names of directors and the status of shareholders.
Any registered entity that opens a company account at an international bank offering financial services, such as capital transfer and currency exchange, is also protected from inquiries by the government bodies of other nations.
Richard Kaltongga, an adviser to Vanuatu's prime minister, said the country wanted to gain from China's rise and was hoping to attract up to 6,000 offshore registered companies from China by next year. The country has registered more than 40,000 foreign enterprises, mainly from Australia and New Zealand.
'We need to be in line with what is happening in the world instead of sitting in our little corner,' Kaltongga said.
The trade commission will launch a promotion campaign on the mainland next month, soliciting firms in different types of trade, from banking and finance to insurance and shipping for registering in Vanuatu.