As we start the new APEC year under the leadership of the Government of the Russian Federation, let me thank all of the economies here and the international organizations that worked with the United States last year to ensure success during our chairmanship of APEC’s Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT) Experts’ Working Group.
In passing the baton as Chair to Timur Eyvazov, I would like to provide a brief summary of what the ACT achieved in 2011, and I hope that we will be able to build on this momentum during the Russian Chairmanship to continue implementing the actions outlined in the ACT’s five-year strategy.
Last November in Honolulu, Hawaii, I joined Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton and other ministers at the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Open Governance and Economic Growth to discuss how economies and communities – including representatives from business, academia, and non-governmental and labor organizations – from across the Asia-Pacific region can work to enhance public trust by combating corruption and by committing to transparent, fair, and accountable governance. Participants also underscored how good governance can spur high-quality economic growth by fostering and sustaining the entrepreneurial spirit that nurtures innovation, enhances competitiveness, reduces market distortions, and promotes trade and long-term investment.
The 2011 APEC High Level Policy Dialogue also reaffirmed and reinforced the commitment by economies to report on their implementation of previously-agreed APEC anti-corruption and transparency policies. We join our ACT colleagues in looking forward to seeing the first reports at SOM II and to learning more about economies’ anti-corruption and transparency efforts.
It is clear that our senior officials have placed a high priority on including effective transparency and anti-corruption measures as part of the overall APEC agenda, and open governance is fundamental to our work in many ways as it shines a light on corruption and empowers communities to monitor and voice their perspectives on government policies and the use of resources. Conversely, when a government hides its work from the view of the public, the public’s trust in the government erodes.
Good governance tools are critical to nurturing long-term, sustainable growth and to supporting the regional development and prosperity to which we all aspire. Working together with civil society, economies can harness greater innovation, efficiencies, and technologies that help shape a better future across communities.
Inspired by the Arab Spring, people around the world are demanding more transparency in government. Governments can demonstrate their commitment to uphold the highest levels of integrity by adopting effective anticorruption policies that put accountability front and center.
As Secretary Clinton has emphasized: Empowering citizens to fight corruption and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance are also vital. Openness is not only good for governance, it is good for sustainable GDP growth.
Tools such as APEC’s Transparency Standards and other sectoral standards can help provides businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, with greater access to laws, regulations, procedures and administrative rulings. These resources will help to enable greater regional economic integration, expansion of trade and investment flows, and job creation. I applaud economies that are also encouraging ethical business practices and implementing codes of ethics in export sectors that are of vital interest to SMEs.
Codes of conduct and financial disclosure systems also help promote public integrity and economic growth, and the United States welcomes the APEC Principles for Financial/Asset Disclosure by Public Officials that the ACT developed last year. These Principles will serve as a useful tool to prevent corruption, as they will help APEC economies identify conflicts of interest and assist in detection and prosecution of those who engage in illicit enrichment and other forms of corruption.
Through our continued cooperation with the private sector, we are leveling the playing field for businesses across APEC economies. In working with the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and other partners, we ushered in a new era of cooperation between the public and private sectors that will help forge a more connected, innovative, and dynamic Asia Pacific region.
Working with ABAC, the ACT advanced the importance of how corruption increases the costs of doing business, hinders economic performance, undermines competitiveness, and hampers the ability of economies to attract foreign direct investment. Capital flows gravitate to markets with open governance systems within a framework that respects the rule of law, while markets with poor governance and high levels of perceived corruption tend to have lower levels of portfolio investment.
Combating corruption and bribery and protecting legitimate business revenues by dismantling illicit markets and networks also require collective action and shared responsibility among APEC partners, as well as close coordination with relevant regional and international organizations that have expertise and capacities to help improve the overall governance climate in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is proud that the ACT, in partnership with ABAC, also advanced anti-bribery as a core area of cooperation in 2011.
The United States would like to congratulate Russia for joining the OECD Working Group on Bribery. We hope that Russia’s active leadership in APEC and engagement at the OECD will inspire more of our partners to intensify their efforts against foreign bribery. Russia should also be commended for volunteering to host the Conference of States Parties of the UN Convention against Corruption in 2015.
In 2011, the ACT also took a more comprehensive and holistic approach to combating corruption and illicit trade to ensure integrity in global markets and supply chains, thereby helping to protect our shared prosperity and economic competitiveness. I hope that the ACT will continue to confront criminal entrepreneurs and market actors that navigate between licit and illicit worlds, tainting supply chains and threatening the integrity of our markets.
As we learned in the two ACT workshops in 2011 in San Francisco and Washington, DC, broken supply chains, compromised markets, and the corruption that both facilitates and is financed by illicit trade poses serious threats to our legitimate businesses. We agreed that the proliferation of counterfeit, pirated, and gray-market goods diminishes brand identities, company reputations, and returns on research and innovation and increases operating costs and investment risks for all market investors. We must continue working together to fight the corruption that greases illicit value chains and enables transnational networks.
As we strengthen our partnerships with other international organizations, APEC ACT members can, in fact, translate and advance our principles and commitments in a variety of other fora. Our call for strengthening anticorruption measures and transparency should continue to ring out around the world. In UNCAC, we should take the lessons and principles we have developed in APEC and lead by example on transparent, inclusive reviews; on the inclusion of stakeholders outside of government; and on developing practical measures to cooperate on asset recovery, such as the global Focal Points initiative supported by INTERPOL and StAR. The voices of members of our group are already heard in the G20, the OECD Working Group on Bribery, the ADB-OECD Anticorruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific, the Open Government Partnership, and in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership that will include robust anticorruption elements. We should continue to work together to multiply our efforts here through our leadership in these and other relevant fora.
Through our continued cooperation with international partners and our heightened commitment to responsible governance, we can build a firm foundation to invest and reap integrity dividends for future generations.
From Tokyo to New York to Beijing and Moscow, the ACT is developing innovative partnerships and capacities to tackle corruption and bribery. When both the public and private sectors lead and partner together, we can create a culture of integrity that has a lasting impact. We can create a better future by uniting in our support of accountability and good governance against corruption.
Again, I wish Russia a great and successful year in APEC 2012 and applaud my ACT colleagues for developing a vibrant course of action, a long-term strategy to combat corruption in our economies and a new path towards economic progress that nurtures open and cleaner governments and enhances integrity in markets and supply chains.