Competition law: a global perspective for a global phenomenon

30 November 2010

With the widespread adoption of competition laws around the globe, new challenges arise when competition law is transplanted in countries with varying degrees of economic development.

This was the topic examined in a workshop and conference titled ‘Implementing Competition Law and Policy: Global Perspectives’, held in New Delhi, India, on 18 and 19 November and co-organised by Dr Ioannis Lianos of the UCL Centre for Law, Economics & Society and Dr Daniel Sokol of the Levin School of Law, University of Florida.

Here Azza Raslan, UCL Laws student working towards a PhD on competition law and development, describes the key discussion points of both events.


“The aim of the workshop and conference was to draw from the expertise of over 50 policy makers, scholars and practitioners representing five continents. The selection of the venue was not random; India as an emerging economy with a newly born competition agency was indeed most relevant to the debate.

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The workshop delved into economic development and competition law, a theme that is of particular importance to the global as well as to the local business community. The starting point of the discussion was the idea that institutions and laws cannot be transferred blindly and need to be experimented with and adapted to the institutional level of the country.

The workshop examined the contribution of competition policies for economic development; interconnections with other policies for building competitive markets; and institutions for development.

Different views were expressed regarding the design of competition laws in developing countries. Professor Paul Seabright (Toulouse School of Economics) argued that competition is a public good as opposed to a luxury good that only developed countries can afford. Professor George Priest (Yale Law School) agreed and defended an “absolutist” view, noting that “after a century of study and application of competition law, there is widespread agreement that there is a set of competition law principles that if appropriately implemented will maximally improve consumer welfare, enhance economic growth, and aid the low income in any society”.

Professor Aditya Bhattacharjea (Delhi School of Economics) asked, on the contrary, if competition policy in the developing world should be different from developed world competition law and emphasised the role of institutions. In the same vein, Dr Ioannis Lianos (UCL) noted that, despite the expansion of competition laws worldwide, there is a lack of real enforcement in developing jurisdictions. He attributed that to the absence of a pre-existing national competition policy, upon which competition law regimes might be cultivated.

Other conference participants with experience in enforcing competition law in jurisdictions including South Africa, Australia, China, Europe and the US, also defended the view that competition law enforcement varies depending on national institutional frameworks and the existence of vested interests.

In his keynote speech, US Federal Trade Commissioner William Kovacic listed what are, in his view, the main obstacles facing young enforcement agencies: establishing credibility and weight; obtaining and maintaining staff members; controlling expectations and demands; achieving autonomy of the agency; and building an advocacy program which fosters business and social awareness.

The proceedings of the workshop will be published at the Global Competition Law and Enforcement Series by the Stanford University Press and edited by Dr Ioannis Lianos (UCL) and Dr Daniel Sokol (University of Florida).

The conference commenced with speeches by their Excellencies Mr Veerapa Moily, the Indian Minister of Law and Justice and Mr Salman Khurshid, the Indian Minister of State for Corporate Affairs.

“India would soon have a national competition policy that defines the larger landscape within which the country’s competition laws would function, which would be prepared in consultation with the Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office,” announced Mr Khurshid

His Excellency Mr Moily noted that competition policy should address the concerns of small and medium industries as well as protect consumers.

The conference’s parallel sessions addressed issues such as mergers, cartels, the interaction of competition law with intellectual property law, the assessment of economic evidence in competition law proceedings, government barriers to competition and competition issues in joint ventures and distribution agreements.

The international dimension of competition law was noted by Dr John Fingleton, chief executive of the Office of Fair Trading and the chairman of the steering group of the International Competition Network (ICN), in his keynote speech, in which he presented the ICN’s approach to global “cognitive convergence”.

The conference concluded with an ‘enforcers’ roundtable’, moderated by Judge Frederic Jenny, Chairman of the Competition Commission at the OECD and visiting professor at UCL. Many heads of competition authorities from around the world took part, and the discussion covered a wide range of enforcement issues from a comparative perspective such as due process, judicial review and interpretation trends of the law.”

Image: Bentham House, home of UCL Laws


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