8th United Nations Conference to Review All Aspects of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices
On October 19, 2020 the opening of the 8th United Nations Conference to Review All Aspects of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices (hereinafter – the Conference) took place in Geneva (Switzerland).
In 2020, due to the unfavorable epidemiological situation, the Conference was held for the first time in a hybrid format, implying both face-to-face participation and online presentations of representatives of UN member States.
For the first time, the agenda of the Conference combined the issues related to both the UN Set on Competition and the UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection, including combatting cross-border cartels, consumer protection in the digital age, preventing the circulation of unsafe goods, as well as strengthening international cooperation to combat unfair cross-border practices.
Opening of the Conference was carried out by Dr. Mukhisa Kituy, UNCTAD Secretary-General.
Round table on combating cross-border cartels
The initiative to hold a round table on this topic was proposed by the FAS Russia and supported by the UNCTAD Secretariat and UN Member-States during the 18th session of the UNCTAD Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy, held in July 2019 in Geneva (Switzerland).
Andrey Tsyganov, Deputy Head of the FAS Russia, was the moderator of the Round table on combating cross-border cartels. During his speech, he noted that cartels are a serious violation of the competition law. However, due to their secretive nature they are difficult to detect and suppress.
The discussion was opened by Lesya Davydova, Head of the Department for International Economic Cooperation of the FAS Russia.
The key presentation was made by Alexey Ivanov, Director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, who presented the results of an empirical study of the issues of cross-border cartels. The report is based on the analysis of the results of a survey of competition authorities in 37 countries. The participants filled out the questionnaires proposed by the research group, highlighting the key issues of combating cross-border cartels and challenges that international antimonopoly community faces in this area. Thus, for example, only 12 out of 37 surveyed competition authorities have practical experience of interaction in investigating cross-border cartels, while almost everyone is aware of the importance of this instrument of international cooperation.
In his speech, Alexey Ivanov presented possible solutions to the issues that foreign competition authorities are currently facing when investigating cross-border cartels.
As a follow-up to the discussion, representatives of the world's competition authorities shared their practices. Alexandre Cordeiro, General Superintendent of the Administrative Council for Economic Defense of Brazil, spoke about the main obstacles to effective international cooperation in cases of cross-border cartels. Su-hyun Yoon, Commissioner for the Fair Trade Commission of South Korea, shared his experience in combating cross-border cartels, problems and ways to solve them. Hardin Ratshisusu, Deputy Commissioner of the Competition Commission of South Africa, expressed his opinion on what effective means of cooperation are needed to investigate cross-border cartels, and Richard Powers, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement of the US Department of Justice, spoke about the recent work of the International Competition Network (ICN) to combat cartels.
In addition to panelists, the discussion was also attended by Ashok Kumar Gupta - Chairman of the Competition Commission of India, Sakon Varanyuvatana - Head of Competition Authority of Thailand, Yanis Lianos - Head of Competition Authority of Greece, Ivan Vezhnovets - First Deputy Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus, Cai Junfeng - State Administration for Market Regulation of the People's Republic of China and Fatma Adel - Legal Consultant to the Chairman in Competition Law and Policy at the Egyptian Competition Authority.
Summing up the discussion, Andrey Tsyganov noted that combating cartels is an important matter not only of developed countries, but also of developing ones, where competition authorities have just appeared or where they are relatively small.
In order to continue the work in the field of combating cross-border cartels Andrey Tsyganov proposed to create corresponding Working Group at the UNCTAD platform, which will highlight best practices, as well as facilitate information exchange and consultations.
Session on International Cooperation
Deputy Head of the FAS Russia was a speaker during the Session on International Cooperation, which was held within the framework of the 8th United Nations Conference to Review All Aspects of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices.
At the beginning of his speech, Andrey Tsyganov stated that large transnational companies possess significant market power to conduct unfair practices. He also stressed that restrictive business practices of large transnational companies have an adverse effect on international trade, especially on trade of developing countries, on their economic development.
The FAS Russia encourages the adoption of the Guiding Policies and Procedures under Section F (International Measures) of the UN Set on Competition, which consolidate a set of tools for international cooperation in the course of implementation of antitrust law enforcement.
The work on developing Guiding Policies and Procedures at the UNCTAD platform at the initiative of the FAS Russia has been in place for the past three years after Igor Artemiev, Head of the FAS Russia, made a speech at the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy (IGE UNCTAD) in 2017. Following the 16th session of the IGE UNCTAD, Discussion Group on International Cooperation was established in order to exchange views and discuss aspects of strengthening international cooperation under Section F of the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for Controlling Restrictive Business Practices. As part of the Discussion Group, a Drafting Committee consisting of 12 countries was later created to undertake the mission of preparing a consolidated text of the Guiding Policies and Procedures.
The key speakers of the session were Ms. Hania Pérez de Cuéllar - President of the Institute for the Defense of Free Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property, (Peru), Mr. Amadou Ceesay - Executive Secretary of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (Gambia), Mr. Noah Phillips - Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (United States) and Mr. Rod Sims - Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Ashok Kumar Gupta - Chairperson of the Competition Commission of India, as well as the representatives of competition authorities of China, Belarus, Iran and Armenia also took part in the session.
The key stage of the closing ceremony of the Conference was the approval and adoption by the UN Member States of the Resolution – the principal document of the event, representing the main results and the agenda of the UNCTAD for the next five years.
In particular, the Resolution of the Conference adopted the Guiding Policies and Procedures under Section F (International Measures) of the UN Set on Competition. The document assigns a set of tools for the international cooperation in the implementation of antimonopoly enforcement, in particular, in the investigation of cases of violation of the antimonopoly legislation that have cross-border nature and the investigation of global transactions of economic concentration.
The Guiding Policies and Procedures provide tools for international cooperation in antimonopoly enforcement, including such mechanisms as initial contacts and exchange of information, including confidential information based on waivers.
In addition, at the initiative of the FAS Russia with the support of co-sponsors from 26 countries, the Resolution of the Conference included the topic of combating cross-border cartels as one of the four priority areas of the UNCTAD activity for the next five years.
In order to hold broad discussions on combating cross-border cartels within the framework of the 19th Session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy (IGE) UNCTAD, which will be held in July 2021 and the agenda of which was approved by the Resolution of the Conference, a session on the relevant topic will be organized.
In addition, the Resolution of the Conference also established the UNCTAD Working Group on Cross-Border Cartels to analyze the best practices, accumulate an advanced experience and facilitate information exchange and consultations.
Competitive Neutrality (contribution of the FAS Russia)
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Cross-Border Cartels (contribution of the FAS Russia)
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International cooperation under section F of the Set (contribution of the FAS Russia)
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Strengthening consumer protection and competition in the digital economy (contribution of the FAS Russia)
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