7Up2- A project involving Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Nepal and Vietnam

The last two decades have seen most developing economies in the world, including those once committed to central economic planning, taking great efforts in their progression toward the market economy. In this agenda for reform of most these countries, comprehensive development of the legal and regulatory framework has been a focus, with competition law and policy as an integral part, especially now that the need for, and the role of, such a law and policy in the development process is broadly accepted in principle.

It is well-recognised, nonetheless, that in order to achieve targeted policy objectives and contribute most to the reform cause, competition laws and policies in developing countries must be well-adapted to their national development circumstances, taking into account all the local economic, social, and cultural dimensions, etc and by no means a copy or derivative fashioned after developed-country style. They are also to be supported and promoted by efficient institutions, which are well equipped with sufficient capacity and skills. Toward such policies and concomitant institutions, it is necessary, at the first instance, for developing countries to foster public acceptance as well as widespread participation and contribution of various national stakeholders into the policy-making process; build up the capacities and skills of the [future] competition authority and complementary institutions. In the whole process, it is important for them to learn from their own experiences. Externally, sharing and comparing the learnings with other developing countries’ experience will also help them to overcome the impediments to having an effective competition regime.

Strongly aware of the severe resource and capacity constraints that developing countries are facing in the path towards such a regime, bearing in mind the mission of “Pursuing economic equity and social justice within and across borders by persuading governments and empowering people”, CUTS Centre for Competition, Investment & Economic Regulation (CUTS C-CIER) is taking up a new initiative, codenamed “the 7Up2 Project”, which endeavours to accelerate the process towards a well-suited competition law and policy, in selected developing countries in Asia, viz. Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Nepal and Vietnam; and advance the environment in which the law and policy can be enforced for better results; through various research-based advocacy and capacity building activities. The initiative is jointly supported by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Switzerland (SECO), the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.

All the project countries are all pursuing market-oriented reforms, which entail an explicit demand for an effective competition law and policy. Given the local capacity and resource constraints, technical assistance is needed. The need has been underscored by the integration and cooperation process of these countries into regional and multilateral economic systems. Moreover, given the strong similarity and comparability between these countries as regards the level of economic development, the local socio-political contexts, etc., a comparative study and integrated advocacy-cum-capacity-building programme among them will be a practical approach to cross-fertilise and consolidate expertise and resources from the perspectives of developing countries, helping to achieve synergies and contribute to policy and performance developments in the competition area in all the six. Whereas, CUTS, as a developing country-based research-cum-advocacy group with rich experience as regards competition law and policy and a vast network of contacts in the developing world; can stand out as the optimal deliverer of the needed technical assistance to the project countries.

Taking up the mission of “Promoting effective markets through competition policy & law”, the project envisions a long-term cause towards a competition culture for economic development. An action-oriented programme entails research-based advocacy and capacity building as the two pioneering flags to be upheld during the whole initiative, aiming at:

  • Establishment of structures/actors able to advocate efficiently for the enactment of a competition legislation;
  • Developments/changes in competition law and policy;
  • Establishment of enhanced training facilities in the country (e.g., university courses on competition);
  • Development of a meaningful dialogue between civil society and consumer groups (where existing) and government officials.

Implementation and management is structurally modelled after the 7-Up1 Project, which has been recognised among relevant circles as a brand name of CUTS. This involves partnering with renowned research institutions in respective project countries, engaging a Project Advisory Committee of prominent experts on competition to provide guidance and consultations. CUTS, in addition to the pivotal role of coordinating and maintaining the sustainability of the project, will also provide needed expertise to the beneficiaries for realising the targeted results. Flexibility is strongly retained to ensure the demands and most urgent needs of the beneficiaries be met, while complementary and synergy with other initiatives will be most welcome.