President Donald Trump has just withdrawn the US from an international effort to fight corruption in the oil and gas sector. The US is no longer a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that requires member-nations to not just disclose their revenues from oil, gas and mining assets but also requires companies in these sectors to divulge what they paid the different governments, including foreign ones. The Trump administration has pleaded that the implementation of the EITI doesn’t “fully account for the US legal framework.” Under Trump, the US has been vacating the leadership role in many elements of global good governance—it bolted like a horse through open stable doors from the Paris climate agreement. Last month, the US gave up its membership of the Unesco, citing an anti-Israel bias by the UN body that has given Palestine a full membership, while many claim that the real reason was the US government didn’t want to pay the dues it owed to the body that ran into hundreds of millions of dollars.
The latest withdrawal matters a lot since the US has a sordid history of oil&gas graft. In 2009, KBR, a former subsidiary of US oil major Halliburton, had to pay $402 million after admitting to have bribed Nigerian officials in connection with its oil interests in that country. Halliburton, too, ended up paying some $177 million to settle allegations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission without actually admitting to any wrongdoing. The following year, it settled the matter with the Nigerian government for $250 million in return of dropping bribery charges. Recently, allegations of it having bribed Angolan officials have surfaced. Shell, too, recent multi-country investigation records show, was involved in a $1.3 billion oil exploration scam in Nigeria. A 2014 report of the OECD, that analysed more than 400 international bribery cases, shows that almost two-thirds of all these cases involved just four industries—resource extraction, construction, transportation and storage, and communication. The US should perhaps take a cue from it in the interest of fostering transparency around the globe.