28 Mar 2013

Global competition regulators share their views on their future priorities

by Michael Corrigan, Kirsten Webb

"Competition agencies cannot remain behind national or regional fences – we need to pull our forces together".

During the last weeks of March the Sydney Competition partners and Senior Associates were busy meeting and catching up with visiting antitrust lawyers, economists and regulators from Europe, the USA and Asia who were in Sydney to attend the IBA 9th Competition Midyear Conference.

The international nature of the IBA conference attendees further confirmed the recent trend that competition law has become one of the most international forms of legal practice. Multinational corporations now regularly co-ordinate their compliance internationally in merger clearances and investigations.

At the Conference the European Commission and ACCC confirmed the various regulators' views as to working together internationally: "competition agencies cannot remain behind national or regional fences – we need to pull our forces together".

During the week and in conjunction with the Conference, we entertained visiting lawyers in our Sydney office from Amarchand New Delhi and Bombay, Freshfields Brussels, Allen and Gledhill Singapore, Addleshaw Goddard (UK), and Mori Hamada and Matsomoto from Tokyo.

On Thursday 21 March 2013, Partners Michael Corrigan and Kirsten Webb were featured on the IBA Program:

  • Michael moderated a Roundtable discussion with five antitrust regulators, including Mr Joaquin Almunia Head of the Directorate General of Competition of the European Commission, and EU Vice President, Mr Hiroyuki Odagiri, Commissioner with the Japanese Fair Trade Commission, Tokyo, Mr. Alexey Sushkevich from the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service of the Russian Federation, Mark Berry the Chair of the New Zealand Commerce Commission and Rod Sims, Chair of the ACCC, and
  • Kirsten participated in a panel session with lawyers from Freshfields, Covington & Burling of the US and Orrick, France, an economist from Compass Lexecon, London and local practitioners on developments in the law concerning the abuse of dominance and misuse of market power.

The topics discussed at the Regulators Roundtable included:

  • the EU's emphasis on applying competition policies to mergers and cartel investigations even in difficult economic circumstances;
  • work in relation to network industries involving telecommunications and energy sectors;
  • arrangements in financial services such as LIBOR;
  • the investigation concerning Google; and
  • the abuse of patents.

In Japan the JFTC has a new Chairman, Mr Shigimoto, and attention is being paid to cartel investigations and international cooperation with other agencies.

Mark Berry, Chair of the Commerce Commission, discussed the criminalisation of cartel activity in New Zealand as well as the new procedure for clearance of "collaborative activities" between competitors.

Rod Sims talked about the current number of cases the ACCC has in Australia in both the cartel area, as well as for the abuse of market power.

David Bradbury, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation, gave a keynote address which addressed how the Australian Government is responding to issues of market concentration and the challenges they bring for competition policy. He acknowledged that concentrated markets are complex and continue to be a challenge for policy-makers and sought to shed light on current issues in the Australian supermarket sector, including:

  • the impact of strong competition between supermarkets at the retail level on the supply chain; and
  • scope for the industry to work out a voluntary resolution to issues concerning the relationships between retailers and suppliers and primary producers and the exercise of power in those relationships.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.