Realising the potential synergies between international trade and competition policy: Carrying forward the vision of Frédéric JennyClick here to read the full article online
From May 1997 through the end of 2004, I served as lead officer in the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO) supporting the work of the Organization’s Working Group on the Interaction between Trade and Competition Policy. The Working Group was ably chaired, throughout that period, by Professor Frédéric Jenny, following which it was formally suspended. In this chapter of Professor Jenny’s liber amoricum (vol II), I survey the work done in the Working Group and its implications for current discussions and debates. I propose, as well, that a resumption of work in the Working Group could contribute usefully to the resolution of current concerns before the international trading community, including with respect to digital markets, industrial subsidies and the conduct of state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Whatever happens, the global community will be well served if it can follow Professor Jenny’s approach to relevant issues during the original work of the WTO Working Group, in the course of which he was impeccably transparent, intellectually honest, patient, inspiring and thoughtfully engaged.From May 1997 through the end of 2004, I had the honour to serve as lead officer in the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization (WTO) supporting the work of the WTO’s Working Group on the Interaction between Trade and Competition Policy (the “WTO Working Group on Trade and Competition Policy” or the “Working Group”). The Working Group was chaired very ably, throughout that period, by Professor Frédéric Jenny. While I had already become acquainted with Fred during my previous work in the Canadian Competition Bureau, which included (for a period) representation of the Bureau in the OECD’s competition policy work, in the course of the WTO’s work on this subject Fred and I came to know each other much more closely. We shared joy, frustrations, disappointments and a lot of learning, pursuing what I came to think of as an amazing intellectual adventure: shepherding and supporting a global dialogue on the relationship of trade, competition policy and economic development. This experience influenced me profoundly, and I remain deeply grateful to Fred and to others involved for the shared learning and other experiences together.1The work of the WTO Working Group on Trade and Competition Policy has not, thus far, yielded formal results in the sense of new negotiated rules in the WTO.2The work was, in fact, officially placed on hold in August 2004, in the aftermath of the WTO’s Cancún Ministerial Conference of 2003, at which no consensus could be found on “modalities” to initiate negotiations on this topic. It is not clear if or when the Working Group’s work will be resumed, though an eventual resumption is certainly not precluded by the terms of the WTO General Council’s decision on the matter3 and would be, in my view, appropriate and timely.4 In any 1 In addition to Fred, as key mentors and collaborators in this work, I would mention Eleanor Fox, Alberto Heimler, Peter Holmes, Bill Kovacic and Adrian Otten (my director in the WTO Secretariat during the time of the Working Group’s work). The prominent international trade economist, Simon Evenett, also provided staunch support for the Working Group’s work. See e.g., Julian L Clarke and Simon J Evenett, “A Multilateral Framework for Competition Policy?” in Simon J Evenett and State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (Switzerland), eds., The Singapore Issues and the World Trading System: the Road to Cancun and Beyond (June 2003), 77-168, preliminary text available at <www.alexandria.unisg.ch/19336/1/sin...> .2 See Part I, below.3 The relevant decision, the General Council’s decision of 1 August 2004, states that “no work towards negotiations on [competition policy or the separate but related issues of investment and transparency in government procurement] will take place within the WTO during the Doha Round” (WT/L/579, 2 August 2004). Clearly, this wording does not rule out a resumption of work in the Working Group subsequent to the Doha Round, which in the view of many observers has been moribund for years. It also, arguably, would not preclude a resumption of exploratory/educational work not aimed at negotiations, even before the formal conclusion of the Round.4 See related discussion, below.