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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?


Find more resources from the European Parliament Research Service (EPRS).

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Dimitar Bozov
08 August 2019

We deal by not trading with them. When we do trade with countries which do not respect human rights and the rule of law we make them richer. Just see China. The west has been trading with China over the last 30 years. Now the Chinese communist party uses the prosperity created by the trade with the west as a political propaganda tool. It also exports its violent ideology to other countries, especially in Africa. Same issue with Saudi Arabia which is a middle-age feudal society. The revenues from oil trade go into financing radical Islamic groups. All this hurts not only people in countries outside the EU but also EU citizens.