APN News, August 21, 2020
CUTS International hosted a webinar on ‘Competition Enforcement for Business Collaborations during COVID-19’, on August 20, 2020.
Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International set the tone for the discussion by raising a pertinent point that these are unprecedented times, in all ways, and we must always keep at the back of our mind that who is getting the benefit – is it the consumers or the businesses?
The webinar witnessed a stellar panel, making the discussion rich in content.
Frederic Jenny, Chair, OECD Competition Committee, began by highlighting that the lack of adjustment of demand and supply in the market has led to negative externalities on society. This has led to an understanding that certain collaborations between businesses have greater potential for efficiency. Eleanor Fox, Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation, New York University of Law, stated that competition agencies must be sceptical in granting exemptions or relaxations. Rather, if agencies analyse what constitutes as ‘anti-competitive’ correctly, there will be no need to provide such relaxations.
William Kovacic, Global Competition Professor of Law and Policy, George Washington University Law School, highlighted that there is greater need to assess collaboration in a broader sense to mean exchange of practical information and know-how between competition agencies.
Bringing in a developing country perspective, Shaista Bano, Member, Competition Commission of Pakistan, stated that the Commission is closely monitoring markets and business behaviour to curb any anti-competitive conduct. It was also highlighted that this pandemic has brought about several changes in the multilateral trading system, with a substantial increase in protectionist measures all over the world.
In that context, Teresa Moreira, Head, Competition and Consumer Policy Division, UNCTAD, stated that this paves way for more assertive competition policies. She also noted that competition agencies should do more advocacy, reach out to other public bodies and relevant stakeholders to better understand the on-ground reality.
Taimoon Stewart, Associate Senior Fellow, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, highlighted the positives and negatives of smaller economies, geographically. She stated that it was easier for island countries to contain the virus, however economic activity took a major dip, as the biggest industry is tourism.
The effects of the pandemic such as disruptions in supply chains and demand and supply shocks were also highlighted by Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International. The webinar concluded by Udai S. Mehta summarising the webinar and reiterating that it will always be important to assess whether any measure is benefiting consumers or businesses. If it is found that there is no real benefit to consumers, agencies must course-correct.
The webinar was based on a discussion paper co-authored by Udai S. Mehta, Deputy Executive Director and Sakhi Shah, Research Associate, CUTS International (https://cuts-ccier.org/pdf/competition-enforcement-for-business-collaborations-during-covid-19.pdf). Around 100 participants from around the world attended the webinar.
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