UNCTAD and Switzerland have signed an agreement to launch a joint programme on strengthening institutions and capacities in the area of competition and consumer policies in Latin America (COMPAL).
The three-year programme will be carried out in Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Peru, it was announced at a signing ceremony in Geneva on 5 November. COMPAL is intended to strengthen human resources and policy-making and to enable local institutions concerned with competition and consumer protection issues to better cope with domestic and international challenges. It targets both regulated and unregulated sectors, as firms in both types of sector can engage in anticompetitive practices that harm consumers and the poor.
UNCTAD views competition policy as a cross-cutting issue with an important role to play in building supply capacity and competitiveness, determining market access and entry, and ensuring equity of the trading system. It is also a necessary ingredient for assuring development gains from the international trading system and liberalization, said Carlos Fortín, Officer-in-Charge of UNCTAD, at the ceremony. In addition, competition policy is a way to both preserve and intervene in the market so as to ensure its good functioning, which is at the core of good policy governance.
The crucial role of competition policy in enhancing competitiveness for development was recognized by the São Paulo Consensus adopted at UNCTAD XI last June, which called for strengthening UNCTAD´s programme of work in that area.
Swiss support for the new programme is being provided by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the Competition Commission. The Programme is fully needs-based and will be implemented in cooperation with national coordinators from the beneficiary countries, ensuring their ownership of the implementation process, emphasized Swiss ambassador Pierre-Louis Girard. Beneficiaries will particularly gain from exchanging experiences on the implementation of their competition and consumer laws and policies, he said.
The Programme could serve as a model for other technical assistance programmes, said Lakshmi Puri, Director of UNCTAD´s Trade Division, adding that the exchange of experiences to take place under its aegis could help build consensus between North and South.