September 6, 2007 represents a real marker to determine how much farther it is to go yet while reaching the milestone of Romanian Competition Council’s 10th Anniversary, within its huge ethical dimension of protecting competition, not competitors in the evolving competition environment.
This is a good time to reflect on progress made toward building a sound institutional framework, in designing effective competition regime, in enforcing the competition law and also looking on the windows of opportunity provided for an in-depth substantive european and global conversation on competition policy and acting accordingly. See, for example, the progress made at the level of the International Competition Network (ICN has facilitated a growing international consensus on enforcement techniques in areas such as cartels and multi-jurisdictional merger review) concerning the techniques to improve competition law enforcement and by establishing a new Working Group to address unilateral conduct, as well as the rich 2007 Conference Agenda including: an in-depth review of cartel investigation techniques and the drafting and implementation of an effective leniency program; new and updated material to enhance the quality and consistency of multi-jurisdictional merger review; Suggested Best Practices concerning the role of competition enforcement and advocacy in relation to the telecommunications services sector; the creation of a Business Outreach Toolkit to improve communication between enforcement agencies and private enterprise; the establishment of the new Working Group to examine members’ approaches to business (unilateral) conduct by dominant firms etc.
Five years ago, in 2002, the annual Report of the Romanian Competition Council has been sent to all key stakeholders in Romanian economy, including, for the first time, academics. Romanian Competition Council must continue to co-operate better with all our Universities in ensuring the adequate training of the future lawyers and economists (including also “the long life learning”) who will join the “Competition Family”.
Competition policy approach in the context of present international challenges it is supposed to consider: national objectives (competitive markets; consumers’ protection); international challenges (globalization of markets; economical disparities between countries). Competition policy is one of the main issues discussed within EU Commission, OECD, WTO, UNCTAD and so on. The debates on the occasion of OECD Joint Global Forum on Trade and Competition, Paris, May 2003 underlined, for example, that: “”it is important that the public at large understands how the competitive markets are essential to the operation of an effective market economy; there are three broad components to build an effective competition policy for developing countries: creating a competition culture, remedying structural and institutional distortions, putting in place an effective mechanism for dealing with private anticompetitive conduct; key stakeholders in an economy (politicians, government officials, the business, labour and legal communities, sectoral and other regulators, academics and the press) must understand the benefits of competition and be willing to support it.”
A letter written by the President of the Romanian Competition Council and sent on August 5, 2003 to the Center for Competition, Investment & Economic Regulation, India and scanned in CUTS’s “ReguLetter” No.12/2003 argued that: “along with the corollary to promote the competition culture, some other important tools for the future development would be: the management of economic intelligence that guarantees the coherence of programs and aims, the fast movement of information etc.”
Another letter written by the President of the Romanian Competition Council and sent on October 9, 2003 to F. Jenny showed that Professor’s letter published on Financial Times as a post-Cancun reflection : “represents a new challenge for the world wide competition family to recall the past, to learn from the most recent experience and to reflect about the future. In this context I dare to write a few lines as my personal reflection thoughts on these events. I wrote about a “competition family” and I like to believe that it is not only a poetical expression or a utopian desire. Sometimes the families are the scene of various different opinions and these are, I’ am sure, the engines of the progress. Someone hurried to speak about the “Cancun’s failure” but I think that we should look beyond this. I think that it is more useful to talk about “Cancun’ lessons”. There are opposite opinions between developed and developing countries and there are opposite opinions within the developed and developing countries on competition issues. We do not have to forgive other elements of the equation: multinational companies, civil society, anti-globalization movements and media. But as you underlined, their aims are the same: the economic growth and the welfare of the consumers. It remains to discuss the actions. So, it is important to discuss. The dialog is the only response that could be offered for both opponents to negotiating commitments within the future WTO round and anti-globalisation movements. But the time of colloquial debates is gone. We have to establish the rules for the future economy within the multilateral negotiation framework. We are challenged to prove that applying the competition rules around the world it is not a null sum game but a potential opportunity for all the actors to win. I support your message that it is the time of mature actions.”
Two years later, Hazel Henderson argued that: “Economics is politics in disguise… We see already in our 21st century that the new weapons of choice are currencies, as well as better diplomacy, intelligence and widely shared information…” (Hazel Henderson, August 2005, “21st Century Strategies for Sustainability”, www.hazelhenderson.com/recentPapers/21st_century_strategies_).
And one year later, in 2006, giving some answers and referring to his book “Making Globalization Work” (International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2006: Managing globalization, Q & A with Joseph Stiglitz, Posted by Daniel Altman in Q & A, 7 Comments, http://blogs.iht.com/tribtalk/business/globalization/?p=177), Joseph Stiglitz showed that : “the reason that the invisible hand often seems invisible is that it is often not there…The real debate today is about finding the right balance between the market and government (and the third “sector”- non-governmental non-profit organizations)…The impact of globalization is complex…”
And also a year ago, in 2006, European Commissioner for Competition Policy, Neelie Kroes, emphasized that globalization “redistributes the playing cards at world level” and “certainly does bring challenges which need proper governance”, while businesses “have been quick to take advantage of the opportunities of open markets and free trade”, within this framework restructuring being “a tool by which businesses seek efficiencies and better matching of people, money and ideas” and mergers and acquisition representing “means by which companies develop in order to benefit from and harness the opportunities of globalisation and world markets” (Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition Policy – “Challenges to the integration of the European market: protectionism and effective competition policy”, Speech/06/369, Competition Law Association – Burrell Lecture 2006, Institute of Electrical Engineers, London, 12th June 2006).
Romania has now in place the institutional framework it needs to go farther by ensuring on the market a fair playing field where efficiency and innovation are encouraged to prosper. We must use this framework where like it is said “solely competition on the merits” is guaranteed by effective policies on state aid, merger control and antitrust. But in the same time we have to take into account that an OECD’s Competition Committee invitation to a roundtable discussion (on May 18, 2005) on “competition on the merits” notes that such kind of competition is a phrase “commonly used by courts and practitioners in their analyses of unilateral conduct by dominant firms”. In responding to this invitation the Delegation of the United States to the Competition Committee for discussion at its forthcoming meeting (1-2 June 2005) argued that: << care must be taken in using this phrase, “competition on the merits”, often used as though it brings specific content to dominance analysis; in measuring behaviour that has taken place, one wants to get correct results, but at the same time to give clear and specific guidance to those who have not yet acted. >> (OECD’s Roundtable on competition on the merits, Note by the United States, DAF/COMP/WD(2005)13, 18-May-2005).
It is now largely agreed that the objective of antitrust is consumer welfare
and it is incorporating sound economics into the antitrust analysis, while developing an adequate analytical framework for applying an administrative system: the Romanian competition law which is harmonized with EU competition rules contributing to the integration of the European markets, the enforcement of this competition rules ensuring that those rules are observed.
Some other expressed opinions are to be considered. “Well-functioning” implies markets that work efficiently and without distortions, however, competition is often less understood and easily distorted by the players in the markets. That is why governments enact competition laws to regulate markets’ distortions (CUTS, “Towards a Healthy Competition Culture…”, Preface, ii-iii, 2003) . And as markets are complex and operate in real time, there is a real need to consider the centrality of the consumer and understand: how the market functions; what encourages collusion and undermines competition; what means dealing with consumers in markets; what means dealing distributional equity and not only improving allocative efficiency: “Pareto efficiency can be seen in conjunction with a Nash equilibrium” (“The consumer guide to competition: A practical handbook”, Consumers International, March 2003, pp. 7-8, 10, 12, 19, 24-25, 31-39). Targeting competition thriving within market task to deliver the goods in terms of consumer’s wants , competition authority’s challenge is “how far should intervene to keep the game fair without having to frustrate players by constantly penalising abuses”, this being necessary “for years ahead” (“Seeing fair play in a competitive game”, “Fair trading”, No 15, Winter 1997, pp. 8-11).
There is a continuous debate about the goal of competition policy, “over whether consumer or total (consumer plus producer) welfare is the right standard for competition policy”. Well-known professors like Michael Katz and Joseph Farrell or like Dr. Kenneth Heyer “consider this debate over using consumer versus total welfare as the guiding principle for merger analysis”, Kenneth Heyer, for example, “favoring a strict focus on total welfare” (Richard Schmalensee – “From the Editor: Autumn 2006”, eccp.esapience.org/http://www.globalcompetitionpolicy.org/index.php?&id=221&action=907). Competition (the process), argues Heyer, is the most effective means to promote consumer welfare and efficiency (the goal) is a cornerstone of sound antitrust policy (“Statement of Kenneth Heyer on behalf of the United States Department of Justice. Antitrust Modernization Commission. Hearings on the Treatment of Efficiencies in Merger Enforcement”, November 17, 2005). Within this framework allow us to add that we have to look more at the so-called “Attention Diversion Ratio” (ADR, defined by Michael Katz as the percentage of effort that should have been spent on competitive effects but instead was spent on defining the relevant market).
Romanian Competition Council’s people, that were professional developed owing to both their professional commitment and technical assistance ensured by Italian, German and last but not the least American Advisors, have proved the necessary competences to protect competition on the Romanian market and to contribute farther to the progress of the “International Competition Family”.
In the same time we must remember all those “Romanian Competition Family” members who are no longer with us, like: IOAN BUDA, NICU TANASE, PETRE TARU.
Reflections of a former Romanian Competition Council’s member on the occasion of Council’s 10th Anniversary. Member of the Advocacy Working Group, I.C.N.; Co-president – along with the representative of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)- at the proposal of the European Commission, of the Working Group for the Capacity Building of the Competition Authorities (ICN, Merida, Mexico, 2003); Lead discussant OECD, Paris, 2003; Author of the speech presented in position 1 of the Final Report of the Working Group for Trade and Competition Policy of the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.), April 2002. See also:
- “Advocacy and Competition Policy”, Report prepared by the Advocacy Working Group, International Competition Network, ICN’s Conference, Naples, Italy, 2002, Advocacy and Competition Policy Paper ;
- „Potential WTO approaches to hard cartels” and „The relations between competition authorities and sectoral regulators”, Competition Forum OECD, UNCTAD, KFTC, Seoul, December 2002, Procompetitive reform – How to Introduce Greater Competition into … ;
- OECD’s Document „Challenges/ Obstacles Faced By Competition Authorities In Achieving Greater Economic Development Through The Promotion Of Competition – (Complete document available on OLIS in its original format, CCNM/GF/COMP/WD(2004)6 – by Theodor Valentin Purcărea, PhD”, January 2004, [PDF] Unclassified CCNM/GF/COMP/WD(2004)6 OECD Global Forum on …;
- OECD’s Document „How Enforcement Against Private Anti Competitive Conduct Has Contributed To Economic Development” – (Complete document available on OLIS in its original format, CCNM/GF/COMP/WD(2004)7, OECD) - by Theodor Valentin Purcărea, PhD”, February 2004, PDF] Unclassified CCNM/GF/COMP/WD(2004)7 OECD Global Forum on ….