The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), representing more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries has just issued its ICC Guidance on Integrity for a Covid-19 Response and Resilient Rebuild (see https://iccwbo.org/content/uploads/sites/3/2020/07/icc-guidance-integrity-for-a-resilient-response-and-rebuild-after-covid-19.pdf). The Guidance has been finalized under the leadership of the Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-corruption, taking into consideration input and commentary from ICC national committees and members. According to the ICC, “with this Guidance, ICC encourages business and governments to continue to uphold the highest standards for integrity in business transactions during the Covid-19 crisis and for the post-Covid rebuild”.
Consisting of three pages of text, the Guidance contains considerations and recommendations on preserving integrity in procurement during times of crisis. These include the use of e-procurement for enhanced transparency; countering illicit practices in times of crisis; maintaining the use of due diligence to address risks of corruption and human rights impacts presented by global supply chain disruptions; addressing corruption risks related to customs and import-export processes; and preserving the rule of law.
Of particular interest is the reference to customs which includes a specific subset of recommendations to Governments specifically tailored at SMEs https://iccwbo.org/content/uploads/sites/3/2020/06/2020-customs-measures-sos-1.pdf
. Starting with the recognition that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been particularly hard hit by the introduction of new and unexpected customs requirements in many countries, the document identifies a set of good practices that would significantly alleviate barriers at borders, keep trade flowing and ease pressures on SMEs. Amongst these it is worth noting the ICC suggestions to “adopt a risk-based approach to customs clearance” as well as to “suspend periodic customs audits and inspections during 2020 for businesses with no record of non-compliance.” The document further makes a strong call to Governments to “work multilaterally to develop a common definition of “essential services”. Business would benefit enormously from a uniform international definition of “essential services”. The recommendations further add that governments should immediately begin discussions, ideally through global forums such as the WCO and/or the WTO, to give business greater certainty irrespective of the region in which they are operating.” It remains to be seen how international organizations and/or governments will respond to these calls.