4th Joint ESCWA-UNCTAD-OECD Arab Competition Forum

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UNCTAD

4th Joint ESCWA-UNCTAD-OECD Arab Competition Forum

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
23 May 2023


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

I am honoured to stand before you today, if only through digital means.

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Mr. Ahmed Al-Kholifey, Chairman of the Board of Directors, General Authority for Competition of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for graciously hosting the 4th Joint Arab Competition Forum.

I also wish to express our appreciation to our sister organization UN-ESCWA and to the OECD, for their unwavering commitment to trilateral cooperation, which has made this forum a reality.

As the United Nation’s focal point for competition law and policy, UNCTAD seeks a pivotal role in tackling emerging challenges in this crucial policy area.

The rapid growth of the digital economy, characterized by the rise of e-commerce and digital platform dominance, has left a significant impact on international trade and development, as well as competition policy.

UNCTAD's research shows that global e-commerce sales reached $26.7 trillion in 2020, marking a 40% increase since 2015. This underscores the need to address competition concerns within digital markets, which are heavily concentrated in six companies: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tencent and Alibaba.

In this context, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) face considerable difficulties that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, rising debt burdens and growing geo-economic fragmentation. Since MSMEs represent over 90% of global businesses and employ close to 70% of the global workforce, UNCTAD has collaborated with UN-ESCWA to launch initiatives aimed at supporting their recovery. These projects offer important recommendations to prevent and combat abusive practices by digital platforms.

Sustainability has also emerged as a vital component of competition law and policy. According to a recent UNCTAD report, competition authorities worldwide are increasingly incorporating sustainability considerations into their policies, promoting sustainable energy, responsible consumption and production, and combating climate change.

Competition law and policy must play an essential role in realizing our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But here too, there is a challenge of technical knowhow and institutional capacity in many MSMEs from developing countries, who lack the resources to navigate this complex, growth in regulation. We must work together to help them overcome this challenge.

The upcoming twenty-first session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Competition Law and Policy, scheduled for 5 to 7 July 2023, will explore many of these and other emerging issues, including competition law enforcement challenges posed by monopsonies, the interplay between competition and industrial policies, and the relationship between competition law, policy, and sustainability.

This gathering of global experts will facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices in these areas.

You are all very kindly invited.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

To close, let me leave you with just one thought.

As this forum shows, competition and collaboration are profoundly linked.

While on the one hand, competition can be a major driving force for innovations and economic growth, collaboration, on the other hand, can accelerate this growth through knowledge sharing, the pursuit of equitable and transparent rules, and a level playing field for all.

Without collaboration, competition is unfair; without competition, collaboration is idle.

As we traverse the intricate landscape of globalization and digitalization, let us harness the power of regional and international cooperation to address cross-border challenges.

By working together, we can cultivate a culture of fair competition, empower MSMEs, champion sustainability, and accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals.

It is my sincerest wish that this Joint Arab Competition Forum marks a significant milestone in our shared journey toward fostering competitive and inclusive economies.

Let us persist in our collaboration, innovation, and pursuit of excellence, knowing that by doing so, we lay the foundation for a more prosperous future for all.

Thank you.