Excellency, Mr. Abdelilah Benkirane, Chief of Government, Kingdom of Morocco
Honorable Mr. Andreas Mundt, Chair of the ICN Steering Group
Honorable Mr. Joaquín Almunia, Vice President and Commissioner for Competition, European Commission
Honorable Mr. Pierre Guislain, Director, Investment Climate Department, World Bank
Honorable Mr. Abdelali Benamour, Président, Moroccan Conseil de la concurrence
Heads of Competition Agencies, members of the International Competition Network
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to address this distinguished worldwide network of competition agencies, which has contributed so effectively to global convergence in competition law enforcement and policy over the past 13 years. ICN's rapid growth from its founding 15 competition agencies to today's international membership is impressive. It reflects the central importance of fair and open competition in ensuring that economic growth delivers benefits to people and businesses. ICN's emphasis on focus, inclusiveness and implementation, to cite Mr. Mundt, augurs well for the future.
The choice of Morocco for the venue of this 13th ICN Annual Conference is most welcome, particularly in respect to involving Francophone competition agencies and inviting new ICN members from Africa.
We at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development are celebrating the organization's fiftieth anniversary this year, so this is a good opportunity to look back at our efforts so far, and forward as well to what is on the horizon. UNCTAD has a long history of working to overcome restrictive business practices, dating back to its second Conference in 1968. Our competition policy work featured prominently in the negotiations of the "Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices". These were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1980, and since then UNCTAD's activities in competition law and policy have included assessment and reporting on the implementation of this Set of Principles and Rules.
UNCTAD promotes cooperation among competition agencies on both procedural and substantive issues through a standing committee - the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy, or IGE for short. The IGE is made up of competition agencies from all United Nations member States, aided significantly by academics and international competition experts. Its discussions focus on the relationship between competition policy and economic development. In addition to encouraging international cooperation, the IGE promotes best practices through capacity building and peer reviews.
UNCTAD also works directly with member countries so that they are better equipped to use competition law and policy for development. Our technical assistance at both national and regional levels includes helping developing countries to establish legal frameworks and strengthen institutional capacity to implement competition laws. We also assist countries with advocacy aimed at creating a competition culture and promoting consumer welfare.
Whereas in 1980 fewer than 15 countries had competition laws, by now the number has risen to 130. UNCTAD has assisted many of these countries.
In 2005, UNCTAD received a new mandate to support developing countries and countries in transition through the voluntary peer review of competition law and policy. Such peer reviews are carried out in cooperation with peer agencies in other countries. They serve first to identify areas for improvement in the competition regime of the country under review and then to generate recommendations that address these areas, including through the development of a capacity-building project.
In parallel, and given the strong links between promoting competition and protecting consumers, the Ad Hoc Expert Meetings on Consumer Protection convened by UNCTAD have acted as a forum to consider revising the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me now turn to the most successful technical assistance programme that is part of UNCTAD's activities to promote competition and consumer protection. I am referring to the COMPAL Programme, or Competition and Consumer Protection for Latin America.
COMPAL has contributed to improving the competitive environment in Latin America, and has created synergies that drive innovation in the countries taking part. It has also elevated the importance of consumer protection issues in the region and connected the region to international competition networks.
Since its inception over ten years ago, the COMPAL programme has evolved in two phases and grown from five to 12 members. It has strengthened the legal and institutional frameworks for competition and consumer protection through the adoption or reform of laws in several Latin American countries. In addition, COMPAL Annual Conferences bring together competition and consumer protection enforcers from across Latin America. The programme's success owes much to our main partners - Switzerland's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, SECO, and the Swiss Competition Agency.
Moreover, as evidence of its relevance to other regions, COMPAL has been replicated by the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
Building on these achievements, UNCTAD is working on a new international programme we call COMPAL GLOBAL. This initiative will have four main areas of intervention:
First, it will deepen collaboration among COMPAL agencies and institutions to strengthen policies, legal frameworks and enforcement in competition and consumer protection. This will be based on the experience, lessons and outcomes of COMPAL I and II.
Secondly, COMPAL GLOBAL will work more actively with the private sector to encourage and help businesses to comply voluntarily with competition and consumer protection rules.
Third, COMPAL GLOBAL plans to work with the public sector, including ministries and regulators of specific economic sectors, to enhance coherence between policies in competition and other related public policies.
Fourth and finally, COMPAL GLOBAL promises to step up work with other partners, such as the OECD, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network and ICN itself, to respond better to the needs of COMPAL countries. The goal here would be to establish synergies and avoid duplicity of efforts.
Later today we will be presenting the new regional arm of COMPAL GLOBAL for the MENA countries, COMPAL MENA. I cordially invite all of you to be part of this launching event.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The expansion of our COMPAL programme is one example of our work in the area of competition policy that we at UNCTAD are planning for the future. Another involves preparations for next year's 7th United Nations Review Conference on the UN Set of Principles and Rules on Competition. This coming July, UNCTAD will organize the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts as a preparatory meeting for the Review Conference. In particular, we will be looking to agree on the draft agenda and the preparatory processes leading to the Conference.
Looking ahead on the broader front, UNCTAD is part of the international planning currently taking place for next year's envisaged adoption of the set of Sustainable Development Goals that will define the post-2015 development agenda. UNCTAD, along with the World Bank, was recently nominated as facilitator for discussions on the means of implementation of the SDGs as part of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.
At UNCTAD we view sustainable development as socioeconomic development that is inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable. Delivering this kind of sustainable development depends on a dynamic and innovative private sector that is innovative and competitive, supported by appropriate public policies and investment. A competitive environment that is fair and open, especially for the small and medium-sized enterprises which represent the mainstays of any economy, is essential in achieving our common goal of prosperity for all.
To realize this internationally, it is necessary to have a high degree of policy coherence at the global, regional and national levels. This is the kind of coherence that ICN has been working for. UNCTAD commends and supports the efforts of the International Competition Network and I am looking forward to further cooperation between our two organizations.
Thank you very much.