The Fight against High-Level Corruption is a Common International Responsibility

Hong Kong, People's Republic of China, 23 January 2008
  • Speech by Ambassador Juan Carlos Capuñay, Executive Director, APEC Secretariat
It is indeed my pleasure to be present here today at the Anti-corruption Asia Summit. Corruption affects economic development and the political stability of all countries as it has national and international implications. I am delighted to share with you the advances that APEC has made in the fight against corruption and some of the work APEC is undertaking in this field.
The APEC region has experienced tremendous gains since its formation in 1989. Our members account for around half of world trade, 41 per cent of world population and 57 per cent of world GDP. Per capita GDP has increased by 26 per cent compared with eight per cent for non-APEC economies. Tariffs in APEC economies have decreased from an average of 17 per cent in 1988 to six per cent in 2004. At the same time more efficient customs procedures, progress towards paperless trading, and other trade facilitation measures are saving businesses millions of dollars each year.
APEC's approach of voluntarism and consensus in developing best practice guidelines is a constructive and productive way of dealing with complex issues, many of which are sensitive in domestic economies. It is moreover an approach that fits well culturally with Asian economies, and ensures the highest level of commitment to dealing with regional issues.
During each year, there are a large number of APEC meetings at ministerial, senior officials and expert working group level. But the Leaders' Meeting is the most visible event, and the highlight of the APEC year. At this meeting Leaders set priorities for APEC and make the key decisions that are then implemented by ministers and officials from each economy.
APEC's agenda is multi-faceted and comprehensive, and is strongly supported by the private sector through its business arm the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). Each year business, through the CEO Summit, provides APEC's Leaders with recommendations aimed at assisting the private sector to be more competitive and efficient. This year's Leaders' meeting and CEO Summit will be held in Lima, Peru in November. Peru will be leading the effort to promote economic and trade relations between Asia and Latin America.
APEC's core activities can be stated as follows: They are
  • to support multilateral trade negotiations, especially by working to achieve the Bogor goals of free and open trade in APEC developed countries by 2010 and in developing countries by 2020, and to contribute to a successful outcome of the current Doha Round of WTO negotiations;

  • to make it easier and cheaper to conduct business in the APEC region in particular by removing behind-the-border barriers to trade and investment and by encouraging structural reform; and

  • to assist member economies, especially developing economies, to compete more effectively in an increasingly globalized world.

And it is this last activity that brings us to today's topic. Without a doubt, globalization is a recent phenomenon that characterizes the current international scene. It can not be denied that globalization offers significant benefits to the Asia Pacific region. However it also generates challenges as well as new threats. And while the issue of corruption is not new; globalization has resulted in increased levels of exposure and new manifestations of corruption.
Corruption is a major obstacle to economic development, a large contributor to increasing costs of doing business, and a negative influence on business and economic relations between economies. And it affects both developing and developed economies.
Democracy is the only foundation for political stability and transparency. Democracy guarantees people's rights and provides for equal participation in open markets. Corruption - in all its forms - does not contribute to democracy; instead it is disruptive and harmful to the sustainability of democratic institutions. In the fight against corruption special attention should be paid to the modernization of the State.
We all recognize that dealing with corruption demands international cooperation. And in order to address this APEC has been developing a series of actions. A major APEC anti-corruption priority is the prompt ratification, by the entire international community, of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). As you may know UNCAC is the first multilateral commitment to fighting corruption.
The Santiago Commitment to Fight Corruption and Ensure Transparency agreed in 2004 aims to promote regional cooperation on extradition, mutual legal assistance and the recovery and return of proceeds of corruption. This commitment was an initiative of APEC's Business Advisory Council.
APEC has also repeatedly underscored its commitment to prosecute acts of corruption, especially high-level corruption by holders of public office and those who corrupt them. As an outcome of the Workshop on Denial of Safe Haven: Asset Recovery and Extradition held in Shanghai in April 2006 APEC Ministers agreed to consider developing domestic measures, in accordance with member economy's legislation, to deny safe haven to corrupt individuals and also by implementing effective controls to deny access by corrupt officials to the international financial systems.
The importance of public-private coordination to fight corruption and ensure transparency can not be stressed enough. So in 2006 APEC agreed to deepen public-private partnerships by working with the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and business leaders to strengthen corporate governance with innovative strategies that would assure greater economic opportunities and prosperity.
In 2007 the Code of Conduct for Business was developed and endorsed. It provides practical guidance for private sector bodies to combat corruption and is focused on the prohibition of bribery. This was prepared in close consultation with the APEC Business Advisory Council.
At the same time APEC approved the Conduct Principles for Public Officials. It provides practical guidance for public sector bodies and officials on combating corruption, proscribing bribery, abuse of position and similar corrupt practices, and promotes integrity and transparency in the discharge of official duties.
In addition the Complementary Anti-Corruption Principles for the Public and Private Sectors was also launched. It is a higher level document designed to highlight the accord between the Code of Conduct for Business and the Conduct Principles for Public Officials.
In the field of anti-money laundering, APEC Leaders highlight the important role of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as the first legally binding global instrument specifically targeted to fight the scourge of corruption. It was agreed that the implementation by our relevant economies of the principles of the United Nations Convention against Corruption clearly commit its parties to take appropriate measures to prevent money-laundering and laundering of proceeds of crime.
The APEC initiative - Thai Anti Money Laundering Workshop, which took place in Bangkok in August 2006, is an excellent illustration of the work being done to advance our commitment towards a cleaner and more honest and transparent community in the Asia- Pacific region. The purpose of this workshop was to exchange best practices among relevant authorities in the APEC region and raise awareness by bringing money laundering and corruption to the forefront of APEC's anti-corruption agenda. It set minimum standards for effective implementation that will serve as a precedent and will be followed up in future APEC activities.
APEC's vision on anti-corruption strategies can not be complete without acknowledging that this is an international responsibility that requires joint efforts and sharing of experiences. APEC Ministers have encouraged the Anti-Corruption Task Force to strengthen cooperation with other international and regional organizations, as appropriate, including the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), OECD, and INTERPOL as well as civil society through Transparency International. In particular, I would like to highlight the continuous participation and support to this task force of Transparency International and the ADB OECD Anti Corruption Initiative for the Pacific.
I do believe that the involvement of international organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society is enriching APEC's anti-corruption agenda.
In this regard permit me to emphasize that proper implementation of anti-corruption measures requires effective cooperative actions. The emergence of new technologies and the growth of the international flow of people and capital have facilitated the commission of trans-national crimes. As you no doubt know it is now common for evidence and the proceeds of crimes committed in one economy to be located in another. As a consequence criminals are evading justice by crossing borders.
The successful resolution of corruption is one which necessitates the involvement of all stakeholders. Therefore, the prevention and prosecution of serious crimes cannot be achieved without the reinforcement of effective international legal cooperation. By working together, we can do much to successfully fight corruption in all its forms.
International cooperation requires an all-inclusive approach to effectively address this matter. Good governance, transparent legal regimes, open markets and comprehensive systems to fight corruption are also vital elements to attaining and sustaining economic development, growth, and prosperity.
In closing I am sure that the efforts deployed by APEC members will prove to be the way forward to develop innovative training and capacity building initiatives to fight corruption and ensure transparency while progressing APEC economic goals.
This fight against corruption will continue to be a priority for APEC Peru 2008. And I am confident that APEC can make a difference in the effort to ensure transparency, and promote development.
The cost of corruption restrains economic growth. Corruption is a global problem which requires a global answer. And it is the responsibility of everyone present here today to help to build a culture of integrity.
Thank you.