Assessing the strategic situation underlying international antitrust cooperation

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The United States traditionally has 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. While each is feasible to address competition-related trade concerns when jurisdictions look at a problem in the same way, it has smaller potential to work between the importing and exporting countries. This Article disputes the conventionally held view that the current policy options are well-equipped to address anticompetitive private restrictions of trade when a trade relationship is considered complementary. I examine how international trade can affect 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. Based on this examination, I illustrate the circumstances when no policy options offered complete solutions to address competition-related trade concerns that have been in the Japanese and Chinese context. 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.