As the G20 world leaders start arriving in this German port city known for anti-capitalist protests, hopes are dim for any wider consensus on putting in place a strong foreign anti-bribery law, with a number of countries, including India, yet to ratify an international convention for this cause. While protests for various causes, including for saving environment and more equitable economic growth, have begun here ahead of the two-day G20 Summit beginning tomorrow, the agenda for the leaders of the world’s 20 top economies is expected to be mostly dominated by the fight against terrorism, climate change and open trade.
Sustainable development in Africa is also expected to get prominence because of being a pet agenda for the Summit host and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. However, experts and the G20 watchers here are sceptical about a concerted global fight against corruption finding much leeway at the Summit of the world leaders representing a huge share of the world economy. Besides Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the top world leaders expected to be present include US President Donald Trump, UK’s Theresa May, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and leaders of countries like France, Japan and South Korea.
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Incidentally, India figures among the countries where corruption has been a major political issue and the Modi government has been maintaining that it will leave no stone unturned in the fight against corruption and black money. For many years, G20 has been listing corruption as one of the biggest impediments to the global economic growth and its sustainable development agenda. While this year’s theme for the G20 Summit, under German Presidency, is interconnected world, there seems to be no convergence on the issue of having a strong cooperation and a common international standard for fighting foreign bribery, a senior official involved with the G20 agenda deliberations said.
Some rights groups, including Coalition for Integrity, formerly Transparency International America, have written to Trump urging him to seek a wider consensus among leaders of the top economies for implementing laws akin to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the US. The US has traditionally been taking the lead in the G20 and the Paris-based think-tank OECD’s efforts for international efforts in tackling the issue of transnational corruption.
While the G20 has been stressing on greater efforts for tackling this menace for more than six years now, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (OECD Convention) has been actively enforced so far only by a few countries. India and China are among the countries that are yet to ratify this international convention. While talking about the priorities for the G20 Summit 2017, Merkel had said corruption is an obstacle to growth and development and causes significant economic damage.
“It also undermines trust in state institutions and impedes the social market economy. In 2017, the G20 will build on and expand the current principles on fighting corruption,” she said. The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, adopted in 1997, requires each signatory country to make foreign bribery a crime for which individuals and enterprises are responsible. The Convention is a key instrument for curbing export of corruption globally because the 41 signatory countries are responsible for approximately two-thirds of world exports and almost 90 per cent of total foreign direct investment outflows.
As per OECD, nearly two decades after the OECD Convention on Combating Foreign Bribery entered into force, there are still 20 countries with “little or no enforcement and nine countries with only Limited Enforcement”. About half of the Convention countries have failed to prosecute any entity in a foreign bribery case since they joined the Convention. The inaction of these countries violates their obligations under the Convention. As a result, the Convention’s fundamental goal of creating a corruption- free, level-playing field for global trade is still far from being achieved.
There are a few improvements, but the performance of the majority of the 41 countries that agree to combat foreign bribery in international business transactions is far from satisfactory. Only four countries improved since last year — Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and South Korea — while Argentina was the one that regressed, the OECD said.