7 November 2014
One of the APEC ginger groups is the Anti Corruption and Transparency Experts’ Task Force (ACT). It was set up in 2004 under the Santiago Commitment. Representatives of member States now meet annually and coordinate a range of anticorruption meetings throughout the region. An undeveloped element of the Santiago Commitment has been cross border cooperation on the recovery of assets. This year, China has taken the lead in two meetings to give momentum to such cooperation, formalised in August as the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption. This gave rise to a network (hence Act-Net) to coordinate anti corruption measures.
There were media reports in October of the Australian Federal Police, acting on information provided by Chinese agencies, arresting migrants who for years had laundered money under the guise of investments. That may well be Act-Net at work. If so, this would fit with the July statement by the Chinese Government about operation Fox Hunt, a programme to recover the corruptly acquired assets of officials who had left China for new lives overseas. There may be reluctance on the part of APEC member States to deport offenders who have acquired citizenship, because of China’s unacceptable policing and judicial practices.
China’s enthusiasm for catching up with the expatriated proceeds of corruption creates an interesting juxtaposition with the United States role in championing membership of UNCAC as a tool for fighting corruption. Contrastingly, neither country has exhibited any commitment to promoting awareness of the APEC Anti-corruption Code of Conduct for Business or the APEC Conduct Principles for Public Officials , both of which have been in force for more than seven years. New Zealand has shown even less enthusiasm despite having one of its nationals as the Executive Director of APEC.
One of the formalities at the APEC CEO summit in Beijing next week will be the signing of the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption by a number of APEC leaders. China, the United States, and New Zealand are among the economies to be represented by heads of Government.