Helms Vows Quick Action on Anti-Bribery Treaty

Article excerpt

A proposed anti-corruption treaty that would bar U.S. and foreign firms from committing bribery overseas won backing yesterday from Sen. Jesse Helms, who pledged to rush the treaty to the Senate floor for approval.

The Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions would extend to America's European and Japanese competitors the same restrictions imposed since 1977 on U.S. firms by Congress.

"The committee's attention to this treaty reflects the somewhat urgent need to push - and I use that word advisedly - to push our European allies and other countries to enact laws that criminalize bribery of foreign officials by their citizens overseas," said Mr. Helms, North Carolina Republican, at a Senate hearing yesterday.

"And this treaty, of course, demands enactment of such laws by every country ratifying the treaty."

Bribery of public officials in countries such as China, Nigeria and Indonesia adds $30 billion a year to the costs of international contracts, said Stuart Eizenstat, undersecretary of state for economic and business affairs.

Germany, France and other European countries allow tax deductions for bribery as a cost of doing business. Under the treaty - which those countries have signed and are moving to ratify - such tax deductions would end and each signatory would be required to audit and prosecute its firms that pay bribes to foreign officials.

"I'm here to urge prompt action by the Senate to ratify the convention," Mr. Eizenstat said.

The United States and 33 other nations in December signed the treaty, which takes effect when it is ratified by five of the top 10 exporters in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, accounting for 60 percent of OECD exports.

Mr. Eizenstat said U.S. ratification of the treaty would lead many other nations to follow suit. …