On February 4th, as part of a package of documents adopted during Vladimir Putin's visit to China, an agreement was signed between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the People's Republic of China on cooperation in the field of antimonopoly law enforcement and competition policy.
For the BRICS Competition Centre, the signing of this agreement is a significant event that marks the next stage in the deepening of cooperation between the BRICS countries on antimonopoly issues. Interaction within the BRICS and with China in particular on the protection of competition already has its own history of development and great potential.
Cooperation within BRICS and the role of the Centre
In May 2016, the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Competition Law and Policy of the BRICS Countries was signed at the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum. The signing of the Memorandum has become one of the important stages in the development of cooperation between the BRICS competition authorities. The Memorandum, developed at the initiative of the FAS Russia with the participation of the competition authorities of the BRICS countries, established an institutional partnership between the competition authorities and defined specific mechanisms of cooperation.
In November 2020, at the twelfth BRICS summit, the activities of the Centre were noted as one of the examples of the success of the Russian chairmanship in the field of protecting competition and improving competition policy and referred to the promising areas of cooperation within the framework of the association.
This was enshrined in the Moscow Declaration, which was adopted following consultations among the “Five” and which reflects the consolidated approaches of the BRICS member countries to the further development of the organization. Paragraph 78 of the Moscow Declaration of the XII BRICS summit reads:
"We note the progress in the cooperation of the BRICS competition authorities aimed at creating the necessary conditions for fair competition in priority markets and for social and economic development as well as at improving competition policy and its implementation. We welcome the extension of the Memorandum of Understanding between the BRICS Competition Authorities on Cooperation in the Field of Competition Law and Policy. We take note of the activities of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre".
The experts of the Centre have long been developing interaction and building work with the antimonopoly communities of the BRICS countries. The first common case that the antimonopoly authorities of the BRICS countries considered in close cooperation, discussing not only the problems of their national markets, but more general issues of organizing the world economy, concerned the food sector. In 2015, a working group on antitrust regulation in agriculture was created. The group's expertise was presented in 2018 at a summit in Brazil and was taken into account by regulators in the formation of new antitrust rules. Alexey Ivanov, Director of the Centre, explains:
"This was the first time that a format of work was tested in which the BRICS academia came together to help antimonopoly agencies. The BRICS Working Group on Food Markets was coordinated since 2015 by the HSE-Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development, but included scholars involved in antitrust law and regulation of agri-food markets from all BRICS countries. In close cooperation with the antimonopoly authorities of our countries, they prepared an extensive report on competition problems in global agrifood markets and ways to solve them".
The precedent showed the antimonopoly agencies the prospects and potential for possible cooperation in the format of such working groups and their close interaction with the scientific community. In order to expand and deepen such cooperation, the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre was established at the HSE-Skolkovo Institute for Law and Development in 2018 to become a crystallization point for the academic circles of our countries, on the one hand, and the scientific support of joint projects of the BRICS antimonopoly agencies, on the other.
For China, the digital economy has become an occasion for a systematic revision of the entire antimonopoly agenda in just the last two years. "It should be noted that many of the discussions that we had with our Chinese colleagues in 2017-2020 were vividly reflected in the antimonopoly policy of this key member of the BRICS association," says Alexey.
In March 2019, an official meeting was held in Beijing between a delegation from the FAS Russia and Ms. Gan Lin, Deputy Minister of the State Administration for Market Regulation of China (SAMR). Alexey Ivanov also took part in the event. During the discussion, the BRICS Competition Centre was named one of the most important joint initiatives.
The Head of the State Antimonopoly Administration of the People's Republic of China, Ms Gan Lin, attended the presentation of a report on the digital economy prepared by the BRICS Competition Centre in Moscow in autumn 2019 and also participated in a number of joint consultations and discussions on antitrust cooperation between the BRICS countries.
"I believe that the BRICS Competition Centre has great potential to promote deeper cooperation between our agencies, to define a common agenda for the BRICS antimonopoly authorities, and to organize ongoing consultations on all relevant issues," she said at a recent meeting of the heads of the antimonopoly authorities of our countries.
Starting from 2020, the experts of the Centre are preparing for a broad Russian and foreign audience a weekly digest summarizing the main events in the field of antimonopoly regulation in China — "Chinese Antitrust".
Last November, China hosted the 7th BRICS Antimonopoly Conference, at which the BRICS Competition Centre presented a draft report on possible approaches to antitrust regulation of digital ecosystems — the concept of "ecological antitrust".
Speaking at the session on the coordination of competition policy, Alexey Ivanov, Director of the Centre, emphasized the special role of the BRICS association for the development of competition at the global level:
"There is no unified regime of antitrust regulation in the world today, but there is hope for an intermediate scenario that can be implemented by the BRICS countries. We have a flexible format and the framework of cooperation in it is flexible. At the same time, antimonopoly law is an adaptive regulatory tool that allows us to effectively respond to rapidly changing conditions. So there is an opportunity to work out a constructive mechanism on the coordination of approaches to the protection of competition by the BRICS countries".
A separate session at the conference was devoted to the problem of international cartels. The results of the work of the BRICS Competition Centre in this research area were presented by Anna Pozdnyakova, a researcher at the Centre.