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June 29, 2000 Contact: Daniel Cruise, 202-482-3809

Commerce Report Shows Progress on Combating Bribery in International Business, But Bribes Remain a Big Problem

Washington, DC--A twenty-year effort to build international consensus on combating bribery is starting to achieve results, according to a report to Congress released today by the U.S. Department of Commerce. According to the Report, twenty-one of the thirty-four countries that signed the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions have ratified the Convention. These countries account for about 78 percent of all exports from OECD countries. Most other signatory countries are expected to become parties to the Convention before the end of the year.

"To date, we are encouraged by the actions that signatories have taken and the seriousness with which they have approached the task of implementing the Convention," Commerce Secretary William M. Daley said in a letter to Congress. "Free and fair trade is the name of the game, and we are committed to creating a level playing field in which U.S. firms can compete on equal footing with our global competitors."

Despite progress on curbing anti-bribery, Daley said the United States has varying degrees of concern about the adequacy of several countries' legislation, including that of Japan and the United Kingdom. This concern is not only about the commercial impact of bribes to foreign public officials, but that corrupt practices "impede economic development around the globe and hinders the development of democratic institutions."

Since the report was completed the French Parliament passed new anti-bribery legislation, and the British government has issued a White Paper proposing new measures to strengthen UK anti-corruption laws..

The Commerce report noted that in the period from May 1994 through April 2000, the outcome of 353 international contracts valued at approximately $165 billion may have been affected by bribes to public officials. U.S. firms are alleged to have lost 92 of these contracts worth about $26 billion.

"The fact that bribery of foreign public officials affects the awarding of international contracts worth billions of dollars is unacceptable," said Commerce Under Secretary for International Trade Robert LaRussa. "We will not rest until these numbers come down, but that is unlikely to happen until we get all signatories to fulfill their obligations in the OECD Convention to criminalize bribery and vigorously enforce their anti-bribery laws."

The July 2000 report on implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention is the second of six annual reports that the Department of Commerce was mandated to submit to Congress under the International Anti-Bribery and Fair Competition Act (IAFCA) of 1998. The IAFCA approved changes in U.S. law to implement the Convention.

The Report and more information is available on: trade.gov/media.

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