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Assessing the strategic situation underlying international antitrust cooperation

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The United States has repeatedly considered unilateral and bilateral channels to address trade concerns arising from competition-related matters. Such alternative, available policy options include the extraterritorial application of U.S. antitrust law, U.S. Section 301’s competition-related clause, the WTO dispute settlement process, and positive comity. This article disputes this conventionally held view that the current level of antitrust cooperation is feasible in all situations. I examine how international trade affects the general level of antitrust standards through the lens of the bilateral trade imbalances between the U.S. and Japan and between the U.S. and China. I then assess the policy options that the U.S. has relied upon to address competition-related trade concerns by exploring in detail the competition-related trade concerns that have been in the Japanese and Chinese context. It illustrates that no policy options offered complete solutions, given the highly complementary economic and trade structures of the two contexts. This article therefore sounds the alarm that the existing paradigm in antitrust cooperation is less likely to preempt the need to resort to a multilateral framework. It suggests that the optimal antitrust regime for the integrated economy is to strengthen a network of bilateral agreements, supplemented by efforts toward a multilateral agreement.