PARIS, France– Ministers and high-level officials from six countries, including two in the Caribbean, have signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention, the first multilateral treaty of its kind. The Convention will enable governments to swiftly update their networks of existing tax treaties and further reduce opportunities for tax avoidance.

Barbados, Jamaica, Côte d’Ivoire, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of signatories to 78.

“Today’s signing of the multilateral convention is another major step towards updating the international tax rules through the swift implementation of the BEPS package,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

“Beyond saving signatories from the burden of re-negotiating thousands of  tax treaties bilaterally, the convention results in more certainty and predictability for businesses, and a better functioning international tax system for the benefit of our citizens.”

The OECD/G20 BEPS Project delivers solutions for governments to close the gaps in existing international rules that allow corporate profits to be artificially shifted to low or no-tax environments, where companies have little or no economic activity.

Revenue losses from BEPS are conservatively estimated at up to US$240 billion annually, or the equivalent of up to 10 percent of global corporate income tax revenues.

The sheer number of bilateral treaties makes updates to the treaty network on a bilateral basis burdensome and time-consuming, according to the OECD. But it says the Convention, developed through inclusive negotiations involving more than 100 countries and jurisdictions under a mandate delivered by G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, solves this problem.

will modify existing bilateral tax treaties to swiftly implement the tax treaty measures developed in the course of the OECD/G20 BEPS Project. Treaty measures that are included in the Convention include those on hybrid mismatch arrangements, treaty abuse and permanent establishment, and dispute resolution, including an optional provision on mandatory binding arbitration, which has been taken up by 28 jurisdictions,” it explained.

The Convention is expected to enter into force in mid-2018.