Monday, May 26, 2008
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
ABSTRACT: Despite seven years of negotiating effort, the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, launched in November 2001 under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), remains stalled. The agenda spelled out in the Doha Declaration was quite ambitious: It addressed not only traditional trade issues such as tariffs but also new issues such as investment, competition policy, and environment. Unfortunately the breadth of the agenda contributed to disarray in the ensuing negotiations. In hopes of expediting talks, the General Council of the WTO subsequently dropped several controversial issues, among them competition policy, but the Doha talks are still deadlocked.
Even though competition policy was deleted from the Doha agenda, anticompetitive practices continue to attract attention. The covert growth of murky cartels and the well-publicized boom (until the recent financial crisis) in cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&As) raised concerns about possible negative impacts. While developed countries generally enforce competition policies at the national level, many developing countries do not. Moreover, cross-border practices often escape the scope of national regimes (except perhaps EU and US authorities). Therefore, several international institutions—the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Competition Network (ICN), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the WTO—actively discuss the creation of international frameworks to shape competition policy; they also publish relevant studies.