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Corruption and Conflicts of Interest

Corruption and Conflicts of Interest

A Comparative Law Approach

Studies in Comparative Law and Legal Culture series

Edited by Jean-Bernard Auby, Emmanuel Breen and Thomas Perroud

As in all periods of swift economic development and political upheaval, our era of globalization has brought corruption and conflicts of interest into the spotlight. This comprehensive study highlights the difficulties of devising global legislative and judicial responses to these issues.

Chapter 13: Corruption, conflicts of interests and the WTO

Susan Ariel Aaronson and M. Rodwan Abouharb

Subjects: law - academic, comparative law, constitutional and administrative law, corruption and economic crime, public international law


The GATT and the WTO comprise the international system of rules governing trade. Neither the GATT nor the WTO includes rules to address or reduce corruption per se. However, member states have long used both the WTO and its predecessor agreement, the GATT, to improve governance in other countries. They hold these states accountable with three mechanisms: the accession process, trade policy reviews, and ultimately, trade disputes. Under WTO rules, policymakers are obligated to act in an evenhanded and predictable manner - so that all market actors are treated in an equivalent manner under trade rules. They also must provide market actors with access to information and to allow individuals to comment on and challenge trade-related regulations before they are adopted (a form of due process). These obligations can be redefined as anti-corruption counterweights in that they bolster the ability of citizens to monitor their government and hold it accountable. In attempting to improve governance for foreign market actors (the direct intent of WTO rules), membership in the WTO improves governance for domestic actors too. In so doing, the WTO helps member states counter corruption (a spillover effect). Corruption (the abuse of entrusted authority for illicit gain) is pervasive, hard to measure and damaging to economic growth. Activists, scholars and policymakers now recognize that corruption is an outcome of inadequate governance. Thus, development practitioners increasingly focus their efforts on improving governance.

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