5th Arab Competition Forum

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

5th Arab Competition Forum

[Video message]
22 May 2024

His Excellency, Mr. Kalthoum Ben Rajeb, Minister of Trade of Tunisia,

His Excellency, Mr. Hassen Guizani, our gracious host, President of the Tunisian Competition Council,

Dear Rola Dashti and colleagues from ESCWA and OECD

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

It is my great pleasure to be here, seeing to fruition an initiative that started almost five years ago, when UNCTAD alongside UN-ESCWA and the OECD agreed to support and co-organize the Arab Competition Forum, now on its fifth edition.

The fact that this forum has continued to take place, year after year, amid a cascade of crises, is a testament to its value. Because let us make no mistake.

This forum has continued not despite of COVID, despite the cost-of-living crisis, despite growing desertification, despite worsening war and heart-breaking humanitarian disaster… this forum has continued not despite the presence of these terrible crises, but because these crises demand all available answers, and competition policy is one of them.

Competition policy may, at first glance, seem removed from the crises that surround us.

But a closer look reveals this isn't true.  Markets that are competitive protect the weakest and most vulnerable. They help ensure that essential everyday goods remain available - and affordable. They foster innovation, making sure that new ideas with the potential to improve lives have a fighting chance. And perhaps most importantly, they break down the strangleholds of economic power that stifle opportunity, perpetuate poverty, and breed resentment.

Your Excellencies,

The Arab Competition Forum is about more than just talk – it's about action.

UNCTAD is committed to driving that action through multiple initiatives, from the cerebral to the material, from our tailor-made research to our on-the-ground cooperation with competition policy training centres in the region, such as those in Egypt and Tunisia, to our Intergovernmental Group of Experts meetings on Competition Law and Policy in Geneva, which will meet again this July to talk about digital markets, poverty reduction, and merger control.

Arab countries are leading voices in all of our discussion; this year, Egypt's Voluntary Peer Review is a prime example of the region's leadership in sharing knowledge and driving improvement.

Dear colleagues,

While the challenges are great, our determination is greater. This forum is a testament to our steadfast belief in the power of collaboration to improve lives.

Let us leave here today renewed in our commitment to work together, to build competition policy frameworks that level the playing field, protect the vulnerable, and create opportunities for all. After all, in a world of growing uncertainty, competitive markets can be a beacon of stability and sustainable development, and that is something worth fighting for.

Thank you.