Trade and corruption: Do we deal with corrupt countries or not?
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In theory, free trade and corruption are incompatible. Reality, however, paints a different picture: the 33 countries classed as having limited or no enforcement of anti-corruption laws represent more than half the world’s exports. Often, these same countries where corruption is rife are also poverty-stricken and riddled with human rights violations, such as modern slavery and child labour.
How do we balance the benefits of trade agreements and opening up international trade and the risk of supporting or even increasing corruption and human rights abuses?
If we impose trade sanctions or restrictions on these ‘more corrupt countries’ – does that then not punish an entire country for the activities of its elites?
Should we be trading/liberalising trade with countries that have high levels of corruption, climate violations, or human rights abuses?