In too many countries around the world, criminals have built great empires on laundered funds to infiltrate and corrupt government institutions. "In this shadowy, illegal economy," said David Luna of the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, "traffickers and narcotics kingpins act as CEOs and venture capitalists while they build their empires of destruction."
Theses illicit activities have taken over a significant chunk of the world economy. According to various international organizations, the illegal economy accounts for 8 to 15 percent of the world gross domestic product, and in many developing countries it may account for higher percentages in their economies. The World Trade Organizations estimates that the value of counterfeit and pirated goods alone is equivalent to some 7 percent of the world's merchandise.
This darker side of global trade is thriving with hundreds of billions of dollars in illicit commerce that includes trafficking in narcotics, persons, and endangered wildlife, among other goods and commodities.
Simply put, illicit trade is an obstacle to shared prosperity, by breeding corruption and siphoning capital and human resources away from legitimate economic activity.
The best way to combat illegal trade is through collective action. This includes strengthening cross-border cooperation to tackle illicit commerce and help communities to seize the benefits of open trade to achieve sustainable development and security. Country implementation of the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement will play a critical role in this process.
The United States will continue to enhance international cooperation with key partners to combat the lethal nexus of organized crime, illicit trade, corruption, and money-laundering, and to protect communities from the violence, harm, and exploitation brought about by transnational networks. The U.S. will do this by enhancing its efforts to break their corruptive power; attacking their financial underpinnings; following the money and stripping them of their illicit wealth; and severing their access to the financial system.
At a time when global risks are growing and converging, the international community must come together and build its own "network" to stand up to and defeat the dark world of illicit trade.