How the WTO’s Trade Facilitiation Agreement May Reduce Bribery

I argued in my last post that the WTO is not well-suited to directly addressing bribery and corruption; even though bribery impedes trade, it would be a mistake to recognize bribery (or failure to suppress bribery) as an actionable violation of international trade law. But that does not mean the WTO should not take action to deal — indirectly — with the problem of corruption. A good example of productive measures the WTO can implement to reduce the impact of bribery and corruption in trade is the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which was negotiated in December 2013 (but has not yet entered into force).  The TFA aims to reduce transactional obstacles to trade, focusing mainly on border transactions; in doing so, it may indirectly address some of the most significant contributors to bribery in international trade, even though the TFA is not about corruption as such. The agreement provides a nice example of how the WTO system can take positive steps to combat corruption, even though the system is not equipped to tackle corruption directly.

The TFA has the potential to contribute to reducing trade-related bribery in three main ways.

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