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Inside Report (1)

Overseas deals can slide along very nicely without greased palms, thank you.

So says a recent USC study of the effects of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. The act prohibits US firms from offering bribes as a part of overseas transactions. Critics say it puts US companies at a disadvantage overseas, where a little ''sweetener'' under the table can sometimes seal a deal. But the study found that from 1978 to 1980, US trade performance - measured by the share of each foreign market captured - was not hampered by the act. Indeed, US trade with so-called bribe-prone countries grew faster than trade with the nonbribe-prone ones.

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''Even in some of the reputedly most corrupt places in the world, honesty is the best policy,'' says Dr. John Graham, the study's author.