Competition agencies worldwide are concerned by the growing concentration of capital and other resources, including data and technologies, into the hands of an ever smaller number of players. For the BRICS countries, the problems of growing inequality and stagnating economic development are more acute than for the mature economies. The key mission of the BRICS Competition Centre will be to promote a development agenda and to reinforce the role of antitrust regulation in overcoming imbalances in the global economy.
The establishment of the BRICS Competition Centre is aimed at providing a platform for close cooperation between BRICS competition authorities and leading academics in the field, as well as bringing together policy makers across all the BRICS countries to set the agenda for future enforcement action. Its focus will be on gathering and analysing information from antimonopoly agencies, identifying best practices and, most importantly, drawing up recommendations and working out approaches to competition policy reflecting the development interests of the BRICS economies.
“The creation of a centre like this to address conceptual issues is long overdue. Many key competition law doctrines and theories are drawn up beyond the BRICS countries and do not fully take account of their interests and characteristics. These are, above all, issues around economic equality, protection of the public interest, and access to modern technologies. There is a clear demand in the world today for justice, for change in the global economic architecture, and this demand cannot be ignored. Antitrust laws could become an effective tool for meeting this demand if it is actively applied in a coordinated way by our countries, which represent almost half of the world’s population and economic activity,” said Alexey Ivanov, Director of the BRICS Competition Centre.
The creation of the new Centre is particularly relevant given the growing competitive struggle for domination in the new digital economy. One of the Centre’s key research topics is new approaches to antitrust regulation of the digital economy. Other research projects include competition issues in pharmaceutical markets and a study on joint efforts by antimonopoly bodies to combat transnational cartels.
The market of one country, even as large as China, is not a sufficient argument for regulating the actions of the global digital monopoly. Competition law is now in some way a unique mechanism for economies in terms of its regulatory impact on global processes unfolding in the digital economy. It is in an intermediate position, not reaching a well-unified set of rules, as is the case in the field of global regulation of intellectual property, but it clearly has a greater regulatory potential than the various forms of national regulation that are at the disposal of administrative law. Protection of competition is already more than a matter of national legal order, but not yet a matter of full-fledged international regulation. In this intermediate position, competition law has both strengths and weaknesses.
For example, the absence of a single global regime allows countries to experiment more, both at the national level and at the level of regional associations. At the same time, due to the reasons mentioned above, competition law is very susceptible to international cooperation, which means that it is much more likely to agree and synchronize anti-monopoly policy measures than in other more nationally oriented areas of regulation. One of the most promising formats of cooperation in the antitrust area is cooperation between the BRICS countries and other developing jurisdictions.
“Among the most promising areas for creating effective mechanisms of checks and balances for the growing market power of global digital platforms are the emerging formats of antimonopoly cooperation within the framework of regional associations of developing countries. Cooperation between the BRICS countries in the antitrust sphere can also become a serious factor for the formation of an international regime for competition, which is currently absent. Agreed requirements for digital monopolies on the part of not one country, but entire regions, could make it possible to change the situation for the better,” Ivanov added.
The Centre’s research work is a continuation of earlier Russian studies in the field of antitrust measures. Significant practical results of international scope have been previously achieved in the sphere of competition in the agricultural sector and food markets. Back in 2015-17, with support from the Higher School of Economics, a working group of the antimonopoly agencies of the BRICS countries conducted a comprehensive analysis of global food markets and presented a paper which underpinned a change in the way competition is protected in this sphere. One of the outcomes of that change was a decision by the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russian Federation on the high-profile merger between Bayer and Monsanto, which was greatly facilitated by joint work with antitrust colleagues in the other BRICS countries.
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