Competition can foster sustainable development, UNCTAD meeting hears

28 July 2014

The role of competition law and policy in promoting the sustainable development agenda was examined at an UNCTAD Ad Hoc Expert Meeting in July.

Competition law and policy experts gathered in Geneva on 7 July to explore the manner in which competition policy, laws and authorities contribute to achieving sustainable and inclusive economic development. The meeting, held during the fourteenth session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy, also considered the coherence of competition policy with other public policies.

Competition policy works in tandem with other public policies and processes to enable a competitive business environment to develop. Inclusive long-term economic growth and sustainable development is linked to the way in which all these policies inter-connect.

With this in mind, UNCTAD invited officials from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) to attend its meeting on competition policy and development.

The discussions centered on the relationship of competition policy with policies in the following areas:

  • Innovation and intellectual property rights protection
  • Competitive neutrality
  • Good governance
  • Trade liberalization
  • Global value chains and international cooperation

The experts looked in particular at how these contribute to inclusive and sustainable growth in developing countries.

Academics Eleanor M. Fox, Professor of Trade Regulation at the New York University School of Law, and Alberto Heimler, Professor of Economics at the Italian School of Government, were among participants who shared their views and commented on the panelists' presentations. A debate involving experts from all over the world followed the presentations.

A broad consensus emerged that competition policy, as part of a wider policy mix regarding international trade, intellectual property protection, good governance, environmental and public procurement policies, among others, has a role to play in developing countries trying to achieve sustainable and inclusive development. The meeting was chaired by Malaysian Competition Commission member Sothi Rachagan, and introduced by John Fingleton, former Chief Executive of the United Kingdom's competition authority, formerly known as the Office of Fair Trading.

As the organization responsible for the coordination of work on competition issues within the United Nations system, UNCTAD provides a forum to member States for intergovernmental policy dialogue and consensus-building in this area.