Thur 24 June 2021
By Wen Chen
The Co-director of the Herbert Smith Freehills China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Centre Professor Deborah Healey presented on competition policy for the Office of Consumer Protection, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Bhutan on 12 and 13 April 2021, in its two-day webinar titled ‘Designing a Competition Impact Assessment Tool Kit.’
Professor Healey spoke at two individual sessions, the first on ‘Competitive Neutrality’, and the second on ‘Competition Impact Assessment’. Both sessions were very well received by participants.
In her presentation on competitive neutrality, Professor Healey emphasised the importance of focus on the role of government in markets in creating a truly level playing field for competition. In the broader context of competitive neutrality, this might include both initiatives to redress the advantages which government businesses may have, and also to engage in regulatory review of statutes and regulations for anti-competitive impacts which create market distortions. Initiatives to address competitive neutrality may be implemented by as part of a law on state subsidies as in the EU, or as part of administrative monopoly law or regulation as in China. They may be implemented as part of a formal competition policy framework which may or may not be enforceable, as in Australia and the Philippines. Alternately, the issue may be addressed by the advocacy of the competition regulator. In all cases the implementation must go hand in hand with the application of the competition law to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and government bodies doing business in the marketplace. Professor Healey outlined the history of competitive neutrality policy in Australia, which was one of the first jurisdictions to implement a comprehensive approach to the issue. She discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian approach. Finally, Professor Healey discussed the approaches of international jurisdictions to the issue of competition advocacy in the context of addressing competitive neutrality.
This webinar was aimed at enabling the Office members to develop Competition Impact Assessment Guidelines (CIA-G). Other speakers included former Head of the UN Competition and Consumer Programme at UNCTAD Hassan Qaqaya, and leading international experts from the industry and beyond, such as former Head of the Malaysian Competition Commission, Mrs Shila Dorai Raj.