Bulletin n°1: UNCTAD IGE on Competition Law and Policy

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Jul 5, 2017, 3:02:54 PM7/5/17
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Bulletin n°1 | Wednesday, July 5, 2016
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About this bulletin
This week, experts are gathering in Geneva for UNCTAD's Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy, a standing body established under the United Nations Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices (UN Set). The UN Set is the founding multilateral agreement on competition policy. With this bulletin, CUTS is keeping you posted on the proceedings.

@UNCTAD #UN4Competition
OPENING

Opening Session

This year’s meeting of UNCTAD’s Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy opened with remarks by Isabelle Durant, Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD.

In her opening remarks, she noted that competition is more important to SDGs as it may seem, particularly in allowing SMEs to emerge as main sources of employment and creating market incentives. This will require governments and competition agencies around the world to find ways to better cooperate, which makes UNCTAD an important partner given its track record for matching experience-sharing needs.
 

“Competition is more important to #SDGs as it may seem. It can help #SMEs create employment” @unctad DSG @Isabelle_Durant #UN4Competition
 

 
She noted that globalisation has advanced at an amazing velocity, with global FDI reaching USD 1.7 Trillion this year and trends like e-commerce having expended in phenomenal ways over the last decade. Such fast-evolving world has however brought about more anti-competitive practices that that competition authorities constantly strive to tackle. In this regard, cooperation has a critical role to play.

Recalling that UNCTAD is the only global forum where both developed and developing countries meet and share their experiences and discuss solutions on competition policy, she encouraged participants in this IGE to engage in constructive dialogue until the end of the week.

Among other interventions from the floor, Botswana volunteered for a peer review of its competition regime in 2018, believing it would help improving effectiveness of its agency.
CAPACITY BUILDING

Capacity-building and technical assistance on competition law and policy

This session focused on how to enhance the effectiveness of capacity building in the area of competition law and policy, as well as strengthen coordination among technical cooperation providers and recipients.

UNCTAD presented its technical assistance programmes, which aim to provide the tools so that agencies’ staff can more effectively perform their competition promotion duty when they return to their home institutions. Since 2005, with the launch of peer reviews, technical assistance has taken a unique trend whereby recommendations directly lead to technical assistance programmes for their implementation. This was exemplified by cases from Albania, Ethiopia and Cape Verde among others. Other capacity-building activities include the revision of competition laws, staff trainings, studies, exchanges etc.

Sharing experiences from UNCTAD’s flagship COMPAL programme implemented in 16 Latin American countries, Regina Vargas of El Salvador spoke highly of the internships programme with the Swedish authority. She also informed that since 2011, competition authorities from the region hold annual seminars on trade and competition policy where they have discussed topics such as “competition policy and trade facilitation measures” etc. “Trade and competition officials should speak the same language, for costs of non-tariff barriers are passed on the consumer”, she said.

#Trade and #Competition officials should speak the same language, for costs of #NTBs are passed on the consumer” R. Vargas #UN4Competition

 
Other initiatives presented the Sofia Competition Forum, as well as projects in specific countries and regions such as MENA, ASEAN etc. For instance, the success of the UNCTAD-JFTC training course for African countries two years ago led the two institutions to join hands again this year, with another similar course taking place in Geneva next week on “Investigative Tools for Case Handlers”. It was acknowledged that the many capacity-building programmes were made possible thanks to donors such as UNDAF, Luxemburg, GIZ, Switzerland, Sweden, the EU etc.

Speaking from the floor, ECOWAS formally expressed interest for benefitting from UNCTAD technical assistance in the field of competition policy.

On the panel were Regina Vargas, Director of Competition Promotion, Superintendence of Competition, El Salvador; Sonya Angelova, Chief Secretary, Commission on Protection of Competition, Bulgaria; Jamal Abu Farha, Director-General of Competition, Ministry of National Economy, Palestine; Kazuhiro Hara, Director, International Affairs Division, Japan Fair Trade Commission; and Prof. Deborah Healey, University of New South Wales, Australia.
RESEARCH

Research Partnership Platform


Earlier this morning, the Research Partnership Platform (RPP) met to present findings of ongoing research on: (i) Competition law and state; (ii) Class Actions in competition law; (iii) Developing countries’ fight with international cartels; (iv) Bespoke competition policy for developing countries; (v) Consumer dispute resolution in the financial services sector; (vi) Indicators of consumer protection and empowerment; and (vi) India case study on Uber.

Created in 2010, this UNCTAD platform allows researchers from research institutions, universities, competition authorities and civil society to share their policy analysis and perform joint research. Research results can help formulate better policies, as well as devising technical assistance projects in developing countries. Below are highlights of some of the studies presented today.

"Class Actions in competition law": the study aimed to provide best practices in order to strengthen antitrust civil Law, in order to enforce the position of consumers and improve their protection without leading to “over the top” claims for damage.

"Developing countries' fight with international cartels": in search of a system’s realignment: the author recommended that agencies should not shy from opening transnational cases, which should be facilitated by domestic laws. Bespoke competition policy for developing countries: The study aims to analyse where exactly and what types of challenges lie for developing countries in creating competition regimes.

"Consumer dispute resolution in the financial services sector": Findings suggest that consumers face many barriers to enforce their rights in courts (cost of litigation, length of judicial proceedings or lack of awareness among consumers and lack of experience by judges), and that there are difficulties to endorse small claims and cross border competition-related claims.

"Indicators of consumer protection and empowerment": the author stressed the importance to strengthen consumers’ trust in digital markets, including by leveraging the UN guidelines for Consumer Protection (UNGCP).

"India case study on Uber: Competition killer or competition trigger": Following the market penetration of Uber and Ola, the government of India decided to implement regulations to regulate app-based taxi services. Research suggests that Uber has promoted competition, by forcing traditional taxi companies to adopt new, consumer-oriented technologies.

On panel were Teresa Moreira, Head, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch (CCPB), UNCTAD; Ebru Gökçe Dessemond, RPP Coordinator, Legal Officer, CCPB, UNCTAD; Deborah Healey, University of New South Wales; Fabio Babey, Zurich University; Marek Martyniszyn, Queen’s University Belfast School Law; Dovile Venskutonyte, University of Amsterdam; Iris Benöhr, University of London School of Law; Christophe Thorun, Institute for Consumer Policy; Shirish Deshpande, Chairman, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) India.
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