Any effort by US President Donald Trump to repeal conflict mineral regulations affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would lead to increased corruption and human rights abuses in the Central African country, according to anti-corruption NGO Global Witness.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that President Trump is planning on issuing an executive order which would temporarily suspend or revise for two years a Dodd-Frank rule that requires companies to disclose whether their products contain “conflict minerals” from Central Africa. The Dodd-Frank Act was put into place by the Obama administration after the 2007-2009 financial crisis to limit risky practices that caused the banking crisis.
The conflict minerals law, known as Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, aims to prevent the trading of minerals which have fueled conflict in the DRC by requiring companies to monitor the supply chain of minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. These minerals are crucial components in the manufacturing of jewellery, aeroplanes, laptops and mobile phones.
The law has been successful in ensuring that manufacturers are accountable for the minerals they source, according to UK-based RCS Global, a raw material supply chain audit and advisory organisation.
However, some US business groups have complained that the regulation is complex and expensive to implement, with the US-trade body the National Association of Manufacturers estimating that enacting the law costs US businesses between $9bn and $16bn. This has led to President Trump – who campaigned on a pro-business platform – to consider getting rid of the conflict mineral law, which has helped bolster improved business practices in the region.
But any move by the US president to scrap the law would reverse the progress made in Central Africa, according to Carly Oboth, policy adviser at Global Witness. “Any executive action suspending the US conflict minerals rule would be a gift to predatory armed groups seeking to profit from Congo’s minerals as well as a gift to companies wanting to do business with the criminal and the corrupt,” she said. Suspending [the regulation] will benefit secretive and corrupt business practices [as] responsible business practices are starting to spread in eastern Congo.”
The scrapping of the law under consideration by the Trump administration follows a similar move by the Republican-controlled senate last week to repeal the disclosure rules requiring oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. Some commentators have claimed that this could lead to US businesses being free to pay bribes to corrupt officials when applying for tenders.