The SEVENTEENTH ANNUAL COMPETITION LAW, ECONOMICS&POLICY CONFERENCE took place on 28 and 29 September in Johannesburg, and it announced that Russia and South Africa will be promoting joint initiatives to control international monopolies for the sake of food security, information security, and equal access to technologies for BRICS (https://www.BRICSCompetition.org/) countries.
The conference annually organized by the Competition Commission South Africa aimed to bring together experts, policymakers, and practitioners from around the world to discuss competition law, economics, and policy. This year’s theme was “Towards competitive markets, transformation and deconcentration” and it provided a platform for discussions on the challenges posed by monopolies to competition law and policy.
Russia and South Africa’s partnership comes at a time when international monopolies are increasingly becoming a concern for many countries. The two nations believe that it is important to work together to ensure that these monopolies do not harm their economies or their citizens.
“We see a lot of digital technology coming into trade, but global food value chains are also very important. I mean, the first parameter that affects the price of food is the import of inputs to produce the product. And this area has become very globalised. In the global trade segment, we are facing monopolisation of inputs: fertilizers, seeds, agrochemicals. On the one hand, global traders such as ADM, Bunge, Cargill rely heavily on financialisation through all sorts of new mechanisms. On the other hand, they are present in the trading segment and benefit from information asymmetry because they know what is happening on the ground in countries that import and export grain, oil or other important commodities. This is a new type of market power, close to that of the digital giants, who on the one hand control people’s attention and personal data and on the other hand take advantage of network effects”, – said Alexey Ivanov, Director of BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre.
The experts concluded that the main task today is to aggregate the negotiating power of regional players. It is about how antimonopoly authorities can actually strengthen their leverage over large companies. Experts suggest creating a kind of antimonopoly protocol between the BRICS countries. The BRICS antitrust protocol – an agreement that provides for a more substantive level of cooperation and specific mechanisms for joint investigations, for example, in the area of global mergers and acquisitions. Global companies inevitably come to the jurisdiction of developing countries, but they do not share information with regulators. They are not providing the same set of data to the regulators. They are essentially manipulating, and that is not fair.
The logical step in such a situation would be to establish a regional regime where global companies have to come to all agencies at the same time with the same information and disclose what is happening globally.
“We must of course act locally, but we must also think globally and act through co-operation. It is very good that Africa has the African Antimonopoly Protocol, which allows us to act on a continental scale. I think there should be something similar at the BRICS level, at least when it comes to global mergers. For example, Bunge is buying Viterra, and this is a really big merger, but they are not yet filing documents with the BRICS countries, they are not coming to share information and explain what is actually happening”, – Ivanov explained the case.
The conference also included a meeting of the heads of antimonopoly agencies of the BRICS countries with the participation of a Russian delegation headed by Andrey Tsyganov, Deputy Head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia. This proves the high level of suggested initiatives. These initiatives will promote fair competition in the global economy, regulations to prevent abuse of dominant positions by international companies.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre.
About BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre:
The BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre was established in 2018 by the BRICS competition authorities. The Centre’s work is aimed at collecting and analyzing information from competition authorities, identifying best practices, but primarily at preparing recommendations and developing approaches to competition policy that reflect the interests of the development of the BRICS economies. The key mission of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre is to advance the development agenda and strengthen the role of competition regulation in overcoming imbalances in the global economy. The Centre brings together leading BRICS universities and independent researchers who are actively involved in the Centre’s main research projects: on global food chains and on new approaches to antitrust regulation of the digital economy.