Exporting nations ignore foreign bribery

8 October 2013

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9 October 2013 | Gurjit Degun

Three quarters of countries that export goods are still turning a blind eye to the bribery of foreign government officials, according to anti-corruption group Transparency International.

The new research found 30 of the 40 countries that have agreed to stop corruption are “barely investigating and prosecuting foreign bribery”.

The 40 countries have signed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention 1997. This prohibits bribes to win contracts and licences or dodge local laws.

Just eight countries have met their commitments under the Convention. Transparency International warned the failure of so many nations to crack down on companies that bribe foreign governments imperils the 1997 agreement. It said the countries actively enforcing the Convention only account for 26 per cent of global exports.

“If countries that accounted for 50 per cent of global exports were actively enforcing the OECD Convention, then it could be considered a success,” it explained.

Some 30 nations have offered limited or no enforcement. Columbia and Iceland were not included in the research because the former joined the Convention this year, and the latter is “too small for the methodology”.

According to Transparency International, 20 countries including G20 members Brazil, Japan, South Korea and The Netherlands “have done little or nothing to hold companies and businesspeople to account for bribing foreign governments”.

The report added 23 countries “have not brought any criminal charges for major cross-border corruption” by firms in the last four years. But it pointed to “promising developments in legislative reforms and restructuring of anti-corruption agencies” in Australia, Brazil and Canada. 

“The 40 countries, which represent more than two thirds of global exports, would make it very hard to get away with bribery if they lived up to the requirements of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention,” said Transparency International chair Huguette Labelle.

The group also called on major exporters China, India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia to sign the OECD Convention. “It is especially important these economies meet their G20 commitments and ensure that their companies, which have increasing influence overseas, operate cleanly,” Labelle added.

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