Areas of Research and Policy Analysis

1) Design and effective implementation of appropriate competition law and policy regimes in developing countries and economies in transition

UNCTAD has the mandate to implement the United Nations Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices (UN Set). The UN Set is the first and only universally accepted instrument on competition for development. Approved and adopted by the UN General Assembly on 5 December 1980, the UN Set is framed around five key objectives, one of which includes facilitating the adoption and strengthening of laws and policies in the area of anti-competitive practices at national and regional levels.

In order to achieve this objective, UNCTAD provides technical assistance to developing countries and economies in transition to formulate and effectively enforce competition laws and policies for development.

Under this research area, the focus will be on methods to design and enforce competition laws and policies, such that they are effective tools for economic development. Particular attention will be paid to recent developments in the formulation and enforcement of competition laws and policies in developing economies and economies in transition. Potential activities may include the conduct of sector-specific studies, and training and capacity building on case law handling for newly established competition agencies.


  • Appropriate design and effective enforcement competition law and policy in countries at different stages of development, e.g. small island developing states, countries with large informal markets
  • Objectives, scope and nature of exemptions
  • Merger controls
  • Intellectual property rights and innovation
  • Role of multinational corporations and transfer of knowledge issues

2) The role of competition law and policy and consumer protection in economic and social development and poverty reduction

Under this topic, the focus will be on collecting and assessing evidence on the contribution of competition law and policy to development including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This will also involve examining the potential tensions or complementarities that may exist between competition and consumer protection laws and policies and other development policies, such as industrial and trade policies. Potential activities may include the conduct of empirical research, compilation of case studies or conduct of surveys to measure the impact of competition law and policy.


  • Flexibility mechanisms in the application of competition law and policy, including in times of crisis
  • The interface between industrial policies and competition policy
  • The interface between competition, trade and regional integration
  • Competition and anti-dumping
  • The role of consumer protection in social development and poverty reduction
  • The economics of retail distribution and implications for access to food and basic commodities
  • Implications of standards and health measures on competition and competitiveness in the developing world

3) Regional and international cooperation in the enforcement of competition law and policy and consumer protection

Under this theme, the focus will be on assessing the effectiveness of current regional and international cooperation agreements in enforcing national and regional competition laws and policies and ways to enhance such effectiveness. Attention will also be paid to potential conflicts between national competition laws and policies and regional ones, as well as to the need for enhancing cooperation in order to deal with cross-border anti-competitive practices. Suggested activities will include the conduct of empirical research and holding of symposia and seminars by regions and sub-regions with relevant stakeholders.


  • Competition provisions in regional and bilateral trade agreements
  • Experiences of regional groups in the enforcement of regional competition law and interface with national competition laws
  • Regional and international cooperation on specific issues in the context of globalization (exchange of information, leniency programmes, positive/negative comity, implementation of Section F of the UN Set, implications of globalization on modes of cooperation, cooperation in selected sectors with cross-border dimensions such as international aviation, international tourism, pharmaceuticals)

4) The interface between competition and competitiveness

This research area will focus on examining the complementarities or conflicts between competition policy and other government policies and the implications for competitiveness. The project will seek to assess the channels through which competition laws and policies impact on competitiveness and how such laws and policies can complement other policies in order to increase competitiveness for a given country.


  • Competition law and policy as a determinant of competitiveness

5) Effectiveness of capacity building and technical assistance activities

This research topic will focus on analyzing the effectiveness of capacity-building and technical assistance activities and methods to enhance their effectiveness by promoting best practices among the competition and consumer protection communities. Suggested activities will include involving members of the latter in some of UNCTAD's capacity-building and technical assistance activities, and vice versa, to facilitate the sharing of experiences and best practices across countries. Another activity may be the development of toolkits for the assessment of the effectiveness of technical assistance activities.

The table below lists these five areas and indicates some of their sub-elements. These are the main areas for potential collaboration between UNCTAD and its research partners within the RPP.


  • Assessment of the effectiveness of capacity-building and technical cooperation activities and ways to improve such effectiveness
  • Design and conduct of training workshops, training modules and other pedagogical activities (provision of substantive comments on draft laws, draft papers etc)