Experts back UNCTAD proposal for technical assistance to four countries to bolster competition law and policy

13 July 2012

A group of experts on competition policy has discussed the peer reviews of the competition laws and policies in three African countries and Mongolia, and has recommended that UNCTAD carry out a proposed technical assistance programme to follow up on progress already made in the field.

The Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition Law and Policy concluded its twelfth session, held 9-11 July, by backing a proposal from the organization to help the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to carry out recommendations contained in a "tripartite peer review" of national efforts to set up an effective environment for fair business competition. It also requested potential donors to support such a technical assistance programme for Mongolia.

In the follow-up to the peer review, the UNCTAD secretariat presented project proposals outlining activities to be undertaken to implement the recommendations. The proposed activities include country-specific programmes as well as some to be carried out at the regional level in collaboration with existing regional groupings.

The tripartite peer review, in which experts (from other countries) studied the laws and policies of three countries and then discussed their findings with representatives of the countries concerned, was held on Monday - the first day of the three-day conference.

The meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts concluded on Wednesday afternoon with a peer review of the competition laws and policies of Mongolia.

Other activities at the conference included round table discussions on: competition policy and public procurement, the challenges posed to developing and transition countries by cross-border anticompetitive practices, knowledge and human-resource management for effective enforcement of competition law, and effectiveness and capacity-building for "young" competition agencies.

In the case of the United Republic of Tanzania, the voluntary peer review noted that the country had "recognized that competition policy aims at perpetuating freedom of trade, freedom of choice, and access to markets".

Among the review's recommendations are that:

  1. Stable funding should be ensured for the country's Fair Competition Commission and Fair Competition Tribunal.

  2. The Tanzanian Fair Competition Act be amended "to include a situation where at least two firms exercising dominance in a market may be cited for joint dominance".

  3. The Fair Competition Commission be more broadly authorized to receive anonymous complaints from consumers and traders.

In its peer review of Zambia, the group noted that "in line with international best practice, and as suggested in the UNCTAD Model Law on Competition, Zambia's new Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2010, is a general law of general application." Among the experts' recommendations are that the country's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission be given guidelines that "cover pertinent issues such as merger notification requirements, general assessment of mergers, and any other current merger control practices"; that "the maximum merger notification fee in Zambia should be revised and lowered from the very high $600,000 in line with practice in the region"; and that "the Commission should allocate more funds for the financing of its advocacy and awareness activities."

The voluntary peer review of Zimbabwe recognized that "there is generally wide political support for competition policy and law in Zimbabwe." Among the experts' recommendations are that the Zimbabwe Competition Act "include a section providing for the objectives or purposes of the law"; that the language of the Act be adjusted to include "clearer definitions and use of important common competition language for terminologies"; and that the Act "introduce a general prohibition of the abuse of a dominant position" by a firm, "followed by a non-exhaustive list of examples."

The voluntary peer review of Mongolia notes that the Law of Mongolia on Prohibiting Unfair Competition was first adopted in 1993 and has been amended on five different occasions. Among the experts' recommendations are that the Regulatory Board of the country's Agency for Fair Competition and Consumer Protection (AFCCP) "start its operations at full strength, since enforcement actions and competition policy suggestions by the Agency do not have sufficient legal weight without it"; that steps be taken to ensure "greater actual independence of the AFCCP from the rest of the Government in prioritizing its enforcement actions and preparation of competition law and policy initiatives"; and that measures be undertaken to foster "the development of private lawyers specializing in antitrust matters."

Over 300 delegates from 80 countries and international and regional organizations attended the three-day meeting on competition law and policy.