Hanoi workshop aims to help SMEs overcome corruption

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The US Commerce Department held a business ethics conference focusing on construction and engineering in Hanoi last week.

According to the department's International Trade Administration of the US Department, which co-organized the event with Vietnam's Ministry of Investment and Planning, the conference was an effort to clear the corruption burden on SMEs in the Asia-Pacific region.

It said corruption has been a significant trade barrier for small and medium enterprises in the region.

SMEs are heavily affected by demands for bribes because they lack the bargaining power and influence to oppose such requests.

The construction sector is especially prone to corruption, which threatens the safety and integrity of infrastructure projects, officials said at the workshop.

The October 5-7 event aimed to help SMEs compete on a fairer playground by equipping them with tools to fight corruption and to adhere to voluntary ethical guidelines.

At the conclusion of the workshop, more than 40 private and public sector participants from 17 countries came up with a draft of the "Hanoi Principles for Voluntary Codes of Business Ethics in the Construction and Engineering Sector."

The draft is now under review by the APEC SME Working Group and, if approved, will be presented to APEC Senior Officials meeting in Honolulu next month.

According to International Monetary Fund, corruption hinders the business growth of more than 70 percent of SMEs in transition economies.

The World Bank estimates that corruption costs the private sector approximately US$1 trillion per year.

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