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When President Trump addresses Congress tomorrow, he's likely to talk about Republican efforts to roll back regulations. In its zeal to deregulate, the new Congress has already gotten rid of a rule that required certain U.S. companies to report overseas payments. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, supporters of the stricken measure say it was an important tool in the fight against corruption and the funding of terrorism.
MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: It was one of the first bills President Trump signed. And as he did so, he said he was bringing back jobs and saving oil and mining companies many hours of paperwork.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This a big signing - very important signing. And this is HJ Resolution 41, disapproving the Securities and Exchange Commission's rule on disclosure of payments by resource extraction issuers. It's a big deal.
KELEMEN: Nearly all the Republicans on Capitol Hill voted to repeal those SEC rules, and that's a big disappointment to former Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. He's a Republican who was behind the idea that oil, gas and mining companies traded on American stock exchanges should have to report their payments to foreign governments.
RICHARD LUGAR: And I would just say that history shows that many resource-rich countries are actually very poor because the vast mineral resources have bred corruption that has led to poverty, hunger and instability.
KELEMEN: Lugar, who had been the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, says the American oil and gas sector fought him on this from the very beginning.
LUGAR: At the time that we were writing it, Rex Tillerson, who was then head of ExxonMobil, came to see me and indicated and made the argument that's been made again and again that this would be a gesture that would make American companies uncompetitive.
KELEMEN: Tillerson is now secretary of state. And even as energy lobbyist here work to delay the SEC rules, the U.K., Canada, Norway and others picked up on Lugar's idea.
LUGAR: So the argument that the United States would be competitively at a disadvantage doesn't make sense at all because clearly other countries have understood that the corruption must stop if we're going to as a nation or a group of nations attempt to bring about a better standard of living for these countries.
KELEMEN: There is a national security argument for promoting transparency, too, says Kate Bateman of the Center for a New American Security. She says corruption fuels conflict and terrorism.
KATE BATEMAN: And a lot of these lessons we've learned from our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
KELEMEN: Bateman, a former State Department official, says the SEC rule was a, quote, "simple transparency measure" that would show citizens of foreign countries and even U.S. bankers and investors how much money was pouring in.
BATEMAN: We're talking about Nigeria, Angola - talking about countries that have, like - 70 to 80 percent of their GDP may come from these kinds of payments by foreign companies.
KELEMEN: But the SEC isn't the place for a social agenda, says Republican Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan who wrote the legislation signed by Trump.
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BILL HUIZENGA: While this may be a laudable goal, using federal securities law and the SEC to enforce social issues is inconsistent with the SEC's core mission and completely inappropriate.
KELEMEN: There is another SEC rule that could be on the chopping block soon for the Trump administration. That one requires U.S. tech companies to report if they're getting so-called conflict minerals from Africa. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
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