Antimonopoly Policy: Science, Practice, Education

On December 17, the  online VI  International conference "Antimonopoly Policy: Science, Practice, Education" jointly organized by the FAS Russia,  Skolkovo Foundation and BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre was opened by the plenary session. 

Alexey Ivanov, the Director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, spoke about the stages of the creation of the BRICS  Centre, which was created in June 2015 at the initiative of the HSE — Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development with the support of the FAS Russia. 

The BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre was created to create a joint platform for meetings and research of the BRICS countries in the field of competition law, providing scientific support for the work of the BRICS countries' antitrust authorities and promoting the BRICS countries' competition policy agenda. The work of the Center is based on projects focused on the working groups of the BRICS countries on food, digital, and pharmaceutical markets.

In 2015-2017 the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, together with colleagues from the BRICS countries, was closely involved in the food project. The first presentation of this project's very idea took place in UNCTAD at the 'Research Partnership Platform' meeting in July 2015. In 2017, at the V International BRICS Conference in Brasilia, a report on food market regulation was presented, which planted the seeds of a new discussion globally on changing approaches to assessing competition in technology markets. One of the main practical achievements of cooperation between the antimonopoly authorities of the BRICS countries and the Center in coordinating economic concentration deals is the Bayer / Monsanto decision. In December 2017, at the III Annual International Conference "Antimonopoly Policy: Science, Education, Practice" (Skolkovo Innovation Center, Moscow, Russia), the project of the International Center BRICS in the digital sector was announced. As part of this project, seminars were held in China, India, South Africa, and Brazil. In September 2019, at the VI BRICS International Competition Conference, a Digital economy report was presented with the results of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre's work and the antimonopoly authorities of the BRICS countries. 

The main recommendations in considering the problem of protecting competition in the digital economy were changes in the approaches to antimonopoly regulation: antimonopoly agencies need to pay more attention to vertical relations, develop a model for assessing the activities of entities – organizers of ecosystems on platforms, ensure the inclusion of an increasing number of economic entities in the new digital economy, including small and medium-sized companies so that technological development does not kill the germs of the social, economic fabric.

As part of the activities of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, the fifth antitrust project was developed to create flexibility and a proactive position of antitrust regulation in the digital economy, which has not yet been adopted in Russia, and after numerous bureaucratic approvals has already lost its meaning. Moreover, in developed jurisdictions, such provisions have been actively adopted in recent years. For example, Germany in October 2020 adopted the tenth antimonopoly package, which repeats the proposals of the Russian fifth antimonopoly package, developed in 2018. Within the framework of the research agenda, the International BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre have built a significant academic network consisting of representatives of five countries and the international community (for example, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – IIASA). The Center plans to implement an ambitious program until 2022 – in particular, it is about the preparation of analysis on combating cross-border cartels and a research project on pharmaceutical markets.

Igor Drozdov, the President of the Skolkovo Management Board, drew attention to the fact that digitalization has a huge impact on everyday life and economic relations.  

In these circumstances, competition policy should be pro-active and implemented, taking into account the emergence and development of digital platforms. In the context of digital platforms, new approaches to market dominance need to be developed. Another important issue where it is necessary to change the approach to antimonopoly regulation is the relationship between intellectual rights and antimonopoly regulation. It seems that Russian legislation currently contains an outdated and unjustified approach from the point of view of the digital economy's realities, according to which antitrust law does not apply to intellectual property (the so-called "antitrust immunities"). The modern economy is a knowledge economy, and a significant number of company assets are largely based on intellectual property. Antimonopoly legislation does not regulate modern economic relations. 

Maxim Shaskolsky, Head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service, congratulated on the 30th anniversary of the institutional framework of antimonopoly regulation and emphasized that at present, the antimonopoly agency is developing regulatory decisions in almost all spheres of the economy. 

When developing an antimonopoly policy and applying it in practice, the most important direction is interaction with antimonopoly agencies of various jurisdictions, especially with the BRICS countries.

Arman Shakkaliev, EEC Minister in charge of Competition and Antitrust Regulation, expressed the view that the protection of competition is a lively mobile process with the direct participation of the EEC antimonopoly authorities.

Simultaneously, the priority areas of regulation in cross-border markets are, firstly, a tangible social effect - the availability of medicines and food at fair prices; secondly, the elimination of anti-competitive practices in the digital economy market. Antimonopoly compliance and interaction of the Eurasian Economic Space's antimonopoly authorities contribute to the effective achievement of these tasks.

Theodor Tanner, Director General of the Austrian Federal Competition Authority spoke about close cooperation with the FAS Russia. 

The objectives of cooperation of the antimonopoly authorities are increasing the efficiency of our investigative steps; avoid duplicating work and create synergies; avoid the destruction of evidence; avoid contradicting remedies; create a transparent legal environment; avoid contradicting factual and legal analysis. Examples of cooperation between the Austrian Competition Authority and the FAS Russia are interaction in the oil and oil products market, interaction within the framework of UNCTAD (with the first meeting on cross-border cartels scheduled on February 4, 2021), research visits, and bilateral meetings. Theodore Tanner emphasized that cross-border cooperation is necessary to understand the challenges we face in the digital economy. It is definitely the competition that will help support and develop economies in the future after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vladimir Koltovich, Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus, thanked the FAS Russia for its support in establishing the Belarusian competition authority. Currently, the department is developing a policy in the field of control over transnational corporations' activities, combating cross-border cartels, and is developing approaches to regulating digital markets.

Alberto Heimler, Chairman of the Competition and Regulation Working Group of the OECD Competition Committee, emphasized that earlier, in particular, in the interaction of Russia and Italy's competition authorities, there were significant differences in approaches to antimonopoly regulation since market conditions in different jurisdictions were different. Currently, digital platforms in all countries of the world work the same, and the conditions of the digital economy have become equal.

Hardin Ratshisusu, Deputy Commissioner, South Africa Competition Commission, drew attention to the value of cooperation between the competition authorities of Russia and South Africa. In particular, within the framework of cooperation on cross-border mergers, Hardin Ratshisusu noted the adoption of an important decision on Bayer/Monsanto with the participation of the International Center for Competition Law and Development BRICS. Priority areas of cooperation remain pharmaceuticals, food, digital markets, and enforcement focus on the abuse of market dominance, cross-border merger control, and cross-border cartel activity.

Teresa Moreira, Head, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch, UNCTAD, acknowledged the International BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre as an active part of the UNCTAD research platform, especially in competition policies. Russian antitrust institutions are in active engagement in international – UNCTAD, OECD, ICN, – and regional cooperation – CIS countries, BRICS, Eurasian Union – exchange of information, discussions, consultations, and international development best practices.

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