Saturday, December 19, 2015

Firebird Suite: cartel suppression reborn in Japan

Mel Marquis, EUI discusses Firebird Suite: cartel suppression reborn in Japan.

ABSTRACT: This article has two main objectives. First, it attempts to explain how, as if rising from the ashes, Japanese competition law enforcement has experienced a significant renaissance. Second, it provides an overview of Japan’s anti-cartel regime. With regard to the first objective, Part II of the article notes the importance of the Strategic Impediment Initiative talks between Japan and the USA but it ultimately characterizes those talks as a second-order factor, underlining instead the deeper issue of Japan’s stagnant economy. It is suggested that the old cultural assumption that economic recovery is possible without a genuine commitment to competitive markets and an effective competition policy has largely been overcome, and that this shifting economic ethos has enabled the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) to become a more assertive enforcer. Additional factors highlighted include the leadership (2002–12) of the former Chairman of the JFTC, and other influences such as the OECD’s evaluations of Japanese regulatory reform. As concerns the article’s second objective, Parts III and IV explain the basics of the rules governing Japan’s fight against cartels. The article reviews, inter alia, the concept of a ‘substantial restraint of competition’ and the JFTC’s powers when it investigates and sanctions illegal conduct—either in cartel scenarios or, notoriously in Japan, bid-rigging cases. Part V highlights recent developments such as the JFTC’s managerial transition under a new Chairman, and it briefly reports and assesses the amendments made to the Anti-Monopoly Act in December of 2013. Part VI concludes with final remarks.

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