A round table on combating cross-border cartels was held within the framework of the 8th UN Conference on Competition and Consumer Protection. The initiative to have a round table was proposed by the FAS Russia and supported by the UNCTAD Secretariat and UN member states during the 18th session of the UNCTAD Interstate Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy, held in July 2019 in Geneva.
Andrey Tsyganov was the moderator of the round table on combating cross-border cartels. During his speech, the deputy head of the FAS noted that the cartel formation is a serious violation of the competition law. However, due to their secretive nature, they are challenging to detect and suppress.
The round table was opened by the head of the International Economic Cooperation Department Lesya Davydova: - "In current conditions of globalization and digitalization, an even more dangerous feature of cartels appears: they often lose their local character and become international. In this regard, international cooperation is urgently needed, aimed at effective and efficient struggle".
Alexey Ivanov, Director of the BRICS Competition Centre, made a key presentation, showcasing the results of an empirical study of cross-border cartel issues prepared by the BRICS Center for this Conference. The report is based on an analysis of the results of a survey of competition authorities in 37 countries. The participants filled out the questionnaires proposed by the research group, highlighting the critical problems of combating cross-border cartels and the challenges facing the international antitrust community in this area. Thus, for example, only 12 out of 37 surveyed competition authorities have practical experience in investigating cross-border cartels. At the same time, almost everyone is aware of the importance of this instrument of international cooperation.
During his speech, Alexey presented possible solutions to the identified problems that foreign antimonopoly regulators are currently facing when investigating cross-border cartels: -"The results of our research show a sharp increase in demand for closer international cooperation between antitrust authorities in the fight against cross-border cartels. Departments are experiencing a great lack of effective tools to combat this phenomenon. The overwhelming majority of cross-border cartels today drop out of antimonopoly control precisely because of the underdeveloped mechanisms of international cooperation".
As a follow-up to the discussion, representatives of the competition authorities from all over the world shared their practices. Thus, the General Superintendent of the Administrative Council for Economic Security of Brazil Alexandre Cordeiro spoke about the main obstacles to effective international cooperation in cases of cross-border cartels. Su-Hyun Yoon, Commissioner of the Fair Trade Commission of South Korea, shared his experience in combating cross-border cartels, problems and ways to solve them. Deputy Head of the South African Competition Commission, Hardin Ratshisusu, expressed his opinion on what effective means of cooperation are needed to investigate cross-border cartels, and Richard Powers, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Affairs of the US Department of Justice, spoke about the recent work of the International Competition Network (ICN) to combat cartels.
In addition to previously mentioned speakers, the discussion was also attended by Chairman of the Competition Commission of India Ashok Kumar Gupta, heads of competition authorities of Thailand and Greece Sakon Varanyuvatana and Ioannis Lianos; Ivan Vezhnovets, First Deputy Minister of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade of the Republic of Belarus, as well as representatives of the antimonopoly regulators of China and Egypt Kai Yunfeng and Fatma Adel.
Summing up the discussion, Andrey Tsyganov noted that the fight against cartels is a matter not only of developed countries but also of developing countries, where antimonopoly bodies have just appeared or where they are relatively small: "We all agree that investigating cross-border cartels is a truly global issue that is now in the focus of international organizations. We thank the UNCTAD Secretariat for the opportunity to discuss this important topic during the 8th Conference on the Review of the UN Competition Complex. UNCTAD's efforts can make a great contribution to what has already been done on this and other platforms".
Andrey Tsyganov emphasized the importance of the issue: - "Twenty-seven participants in the BRICS study noted the need to find new approaches to improve their competence in detecting and investigating cross-border cartels, and 30 competition authorities said that cartels pose one of the most dangerous threats to national economies. Twenty-three antitrust regulators, mostly from developing countries, noted that having uniform international guidelines containing tools and methods for combating cross-border cartels would help them in developing law enforcement practices against cross-border cartels. In this regard, the fact of including in the Conference Resolution the issue of combating cross-border cartels as a priority topic for UNCTAD for the next five years has acquired particular relevance. Twenty-six countries supported this proposal of FAS Russia and thanks to our joint efforts it was included in the text of the Conference Resolution".
In order to continue the work in the field of combating cross-border cartels, Andrey Tsyganov proposed to create an appropriate working group based on the UNCTAD platform, which would allow accumulating best practices and simplifying information exchange and consultation.
Alexey Ivanov commented, stating that: - "The creation of updated cooperation mechanisms is an urgent need, realized by the departments we interviewed and recorded in the priorities of UNCTAD's work for the next five years. The BRICS Competition Center will be happy to provide scientific and expert assistance to the Working Group on Cross-Border Cartels. I hope that as a result of this work, at the 9th UN Competition Conference in 2025, we will be able to observe the functioning of a full-fledged platform for international cooperation of competition authorities, including the exchange of confidential information and coordination of law enforcement decisions, based on UNCTAD".
Andrey Tsyganov concluded, by stating that: - "UNCTAD is a suitable platform for developing updated mechanisms for combating cross-border cartels that meet the interests of most countries in the world, regardless of the level of their economic and socio-cultural development. We invite everyone to join this work and designate the issue of combating cross-border cartels as a priority topic for UNCTAD's work for the next five years, which will be fixed in the Resolution of the Conference".