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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal E. Anthony Wayne
Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs

Remarks at the Foreign Press Center
Washington, D.C. June 29, 2000
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[As prepared]

Second Annual Report On Implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention

Good morning. Deputy Assistant Secretary Stephen Jacobs of the Commerce Department and I are here today to brief you on our Departments' respective annual reports to the Congress on implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. I will emphasize the importance of the OECD Convention in the context of the Administration's overall global anticorruption strategy. Steve will review some of the major findings of our two reports on progress that the signatories are making on implementing the Convention. The State Department's report, Battling International Bribery 2000, is required by the Senate's resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the Convention.

Secretary Albright has emphasized on many occasions that we are committed to encouraging democracy and human rights, promoting prosperity, supporting the rule of law, and strengthening political institutions. One of the main obstacles to meeting these goals is the culture of bribery and corruption that corrodes too many institutions and transactions.

We are, of course, against international bribery because it results in tens of billions of dollars in lost exports for American companies and others that play by the rules and seek to win contracts through fair competition. But we are concerned about more than just the commercial losses. Bribery and other forms of corruption impede governments in their efforts to deliver basic services to their citizens; they undermine the confidence of people in democracy; and they are all too often linked with trans-border criminal activity, including drug trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering. These are just some of the reasons why the Clinton Administration has made fighting corruption a high priority in its foreign policy. This is an issue on which there is growing international consensus among developed and developing countries alike.

The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions is our principal weapon for combating a particularly damaging form of corruption, the payment of bribes to foreign officials in international business transactions, sometimes referred to as the "supply side" of bribery. The Convention represents a milestone in the battle against corruption in international business transactions, a campaign in which the United States has played a leading role for more than 2 decades.

Merely signing an international convention is not sufficient to stop bribery. Implementation and enforcement of this agreement are key if American firms are going to be able to compete on a level playing field.

Our two reports indicate that most of the signatories appear to be approaching implementation of the OECD Convention seriously. Twenty-one of the 34 signatory countries have ratified the Convention. However, as Secretary Albright pointed out in her address to the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, we are concerned that implementing legislation in a number of countries may be inadequate to fulfill their obligations under the Convention. We will continue to use diplomatic channels, both bilaterally and in the OECD, to encourage these countries to remedy deficiencies and to urge the 13 countries which have yet ratified the Convention to do so without further delay.

The OECD Convention represents a key element in a broader campaign against corruption, which is carried out under the leadership of Vice President Al Gore. A milestone in this campaign was Vice President Gore's first Global Forum on Fighting Corruption held in February 1999, in which 90 countries participated. This initiative has included a strong emphasis on ways and means of combating corruption in public service, especially among justice and security officials. The United States is cosponsoring a second Global Forum scheduled to be held in the Netherlands in 2001, to which all members of the United Nations will be invited to participate. The high profile given to the Global Forum enhances the political incentive for national leaders to act against corruption in their respective countries.

Beyond these activities and initiatives, the United States participates in or encourages multilateral, regional, and bilateral initiatives to fight corruption by promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity in public institutions in virtually all regions and in many specific countries. In this way, we are also addressing the "demand" side of corruption, in other words, those who are demanding bribes for international contracts, as well as those who offer bribes.

An initiative in our own hemisphere, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, criminalizes most acts of corruption by government officials, including the receipt of bribes. This convention, signed by the United States and 25 other countries in the hemisphere, makes an important contribution to anticorruption goals. The Inter-American Convention is currently before the U.S. Senate. We hope that in the near future, the Senate will approve a resolution of advice and consent so that we can join the 19 countries that have already ratified this important Convention. Our ratification would demonstrate that the United States takes the obligations of the Inter-American Convention seriously and help promote its effective implementation.

Let me tick off briefly some additional regional anticorruption initiatives:

  • In Africa, under the auspices of the Global Coalition for Africa, a number of African countries are expected to approve this year at Summit level a declaration of 25 anticorruption principles.

  • In Europe, the Council of Europe is active in a number of anticorruption initiatives, such as the Criminal Law Convention Against Corruption, which calls on parties to criminalize bribes paid to public officials and parliamentarians, and addresses bribes paid to private parties. The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) will monitor the Criminal Law Convention, and this year it began the process of monitoring "Guiding Principles" against corruption adopted by the Council of Europe Ministers.

  • In the Balkans, the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe's Anticorruption Initiative brings the United States, the European Union, and regional countries together in a common effort to promote good governance and combat official corruption, and thereby improve the environment for trade and investment in the region.

  • The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), in which the United States plays a key role, has begun to address anticorruption issues in the context of its work on investment promotion, corporate governance, the international financial system and public sector management.
In addition, several specialized worldwide agencies have undertaken initiatives that are of value in the fight against corruption. These include the work in the World Trade Organization towards transparency in government procurement and the work in the International Monetary Fund on the threat of corruption to financial stability. The World Bank has substantially improved its internal management controls and has begun addressing anticorruption issues as part of its country strategic planning discussions with governments. The World Bank Institute, with U.S. funding assistance, has developed and is using a set of procedures for anticorruption diagnostic surveys, to provide a basis for development of national anticorruption efforts.

Moreover, in January 2000, the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee negotiating the Organized Crime Convention concluded that a global instrument against corruption would be desirable. Along with other concerned U.S. government agencies, we are considering our approach to this initiative, which we expect to begin after the completion of the UN Transnational Crime Convention.

We are also reaching out to U.S. companies and business associations to make them better aware of the international anticorruption environment. In May 2000, the State Department, in cooperation with the Commerce and Justice Departments, published a brochure titled Fighting Global Corruption: Business Risk Management. This booklet contains information about the benefits of strong corporate anti-bribery policies and gives guidance to businesses on the requirements of U.S. law and the OECD Convention.

As you can see, the Clinton Administration is actively engaged on many fronts in order to advance our anticorruption goals. While the OECD Convention and other initiatives are beginning to have a positive effect, bribery in international commerce is far from being eliminated. All of us, government officials, business executives, and citizens alike will have to continue these international efforts to stamp out the cancer of corruption.

Finally, I want to express my appreciation to our colleagues at the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and Treasury, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and the staff of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for their close collaboration in the preparation of these reports.

[end of document]

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