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International Antitrust Discussion Platform to be based at HSE-Skolkovo Institute

25.06.2015
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On the 22-23rd June the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Forum took place at HSE St Petersburg. The international conference was organised jointly by the HSE-Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development, the Centre for Law, Economics and Society at UCL and the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). Heads of antitrust departments and experts from the BRICS and the EEC were joined by leading academics and experts on competition law from Europe and the US.

On the first day a round table discussion covered trends developing in antitrust practices in the BRICS and joint approaches to competition policy in the pharmaceuticals and food markets. On 23rd July at an academic seminar on Global diffusion of competition law and policy researchers presented a joint project on a comparative analysis of the legal regulation of food markets in BRICS.

A major subject of discussion was how to devise a single policy for transnational corporations. According to the Head of the FAS Igor Artemyev, this is about finding a  unified approach to dialogue with the most powerful corporations.

‘BRICS are a huge part of the global market and if government antimonopoly departments can agree on a single approach to working with the biggest transnational corporations and everyone sticks to it, this will reduce the level of exploitation on our markets significantly. It’s hard for each of the BRICS to do it alone, we simply don’t have the resources. Joint investigations with a unified approach will allow us to break the deadlock. We need to make it clear to monopolists that on our markets they should propagate best practices, not worst. Currently they are using methods barred for years on European and American markets. Our populations make up about half of all the people on Earth, half of the world’s consumers of goods and service, after all. With our combined efforts we wouldn’t have to wait decades to achieve change, it could happen much sooner,’ argued Artemyev.

The forum also discussed questions on how to develop general principles for competition law and policy. They emphasised the importance of strengthening cooperation in investigating and intercepting price-fixing by international cartels, and announced the creation of a permanent international platform in Russia for information exchange and expertise to bring together approaches to antitrust regulation. The platform will be based at the HSE-Skolkovo Institute of Law and Development.

Alexey Ivanov, Institute Director said that a while ago it was decided to exclude markets based on intellectual property rights revenues from the sphere of antimonopoly laws in Russia. Calling this decision a mistake in need of  review, taking into account the BRICS’ positive experience, Alexei Ivanov said, ‘We would like to set up a centre at our institute which would generalise global practice and organise a single approach for all members of our alliance as we have many tasks in common to deal with. The dominant position with antitrust laws in BRICS at the moment doesn’t entirely suit the interests of our developing economies as they’re borrowed from Western practices. We need to understand how to import and adapt legal institutions in a way that’s appropriate for our day to day economic realities. They could become a toolkit to help antimonopoly services take the right measures to encourage innovational development in our countries.

Alexey Ivanov says that many of the global markets our innovative businesses are ready to enter are monopolised. Price-fixing cartels are becoming the norm, exploitation is taking the upper hand along with unscrupulous use of intellectual property rights.

FAS representatives believe that to beat the cartels we need to create a global antitrust organisation which the BRICS antimonopoly departments could be a part of. Within the group, countries could exchange information on investigations, carry out surprise checks abroad and help one another administratively. The participants agreed that without international consensus it’s much harder to investigate foreign companies, that signing up to a convention to fight cartels would help solve a lot of problems but to apply it in Russia would require an amendment to Russian law.