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Economy Briefs: French taxes increased to meet budget targets

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PARIS — France's Socialist government hit big business and the rich with tax hikes Wednesday to ensure the country meets its 2017 balanced budget target as eurozone growth lags and Italy struggles.

The new government said it would raise $16.7 billion in extra taxes to meet commitments - and campaign promises - on cutting the public deficit and help ease the "crushing" burden of the debt.

The French cabinet approved $9.03 billion in tax rises and $1.89 billion in spending cuts this year, two days after an audit warned the government it had to find up to $53.9 billion just to meet targets through to 2013.

Next year, tax increases will bring in an extra $7.65 billion.

The cabinet levied more taxes on big business, oil companies, banks and high earners, balanced with the more modest spending cuts, after the government won a vote of confidence for its program in the national assembly Tuesday.

The plan is to cut the share of public spending from 56.2 percent of gross domestic product this year to 53.4 percent in 2017.

ITALY

Monti: Italy does not need a bailout

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti insisted Wednesday the country doesn't need a European bailout because its public finances will improve but acknowledged work still needs to be done to cut government spending, boost economic growth and create jobs.

Mr. Monti spoke at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after meeting about Europe's debt crisis. It was their first encounter since European leaders in Brussels last week agreed to use the continent's bailout fund to funnel money directly to struggling banks and let countries following budget rules apply for financial aid without stringent conditions attached.

Mr. Monti, who had pressed for such a deal, insisted Italy didn't need a bailout to help it pay its government debt because its budget deficit was low compared with many other European countries and forecast to improve.

As of the end of 2011, official European statistics put Italy's deficit at 3.9 percent, just more than the EU limit of 3 percent. Spain's, by contrast, was much higher at 8.5 percent.

COURTS

British court: 2 Buds can coexist in Britain

PRAGUE — State-owned Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar NP says a British court has rejected Anheuser-Busch's request to have Budvar's Budweiser trademark declared invalid, in the latest ruling in a long legal battle over the brand name.

Budvar said Wednesday the ruling by Britain's Court of Appeal, which is final, means that unlike other markets, Anheuser-Busch and the Czech brewer can both continue to use the Budweiser trademark in Britain.

The decision is in line with last year's ruling by EU's Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Both brewers were granted the right to use it in 2000 after a ruling that British beer drinkers were aware of the difference.

The legal battle over the Budweiser trademark has not been affected after Anheuser-Busch was taken over by Belgian brewer InBev in 2008.

VATICAN

Report card issued on financial transparency

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has gotten its report card on its efforts to be more financially transparent - but it's secret.

A Council of Europe committee in Strasbourg on Wednesday adopted a report by independent inspectors who have been studying the Holy See's efforts to comply with international standards to fight money laundering and terror financing.

The evaluators' preliminary report found areas where the Vatican was compliant and where it needed work. During the meeting Wednesday of the Council of Europe's Moneyval committee, that report was amended by governments that are committee members, as often occurs. But neither the Vatican nor the Council of Europe would disclose the outcome, saying Moneyval's procedures forbid it.

The full report will be released in about a month.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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