June 29, 2006, Bangkok, Press Release

Delegates from Asian countries met here to discuss the status of adoption and implementation of fair trade rules. The conference inaugurated on 27th June by Siripol Yodmuangchareon, Director General of the Department of Internal Trade of Thailand ended on 28th June.

It came out that in most Asian countries, there is no comprehensive legislation to promote fair competition; and, where the law does exist implementation is not taken seriously. This makes the business environment less conducive to small and new enterprises and big companies often with political nexus rip off the consumers.
Speaking at the conference, Philippe Brusick Head, Competition and Consumer Policies Branch of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Geneva said that promotion of fair trade rules is essential for promoting growth with equity. Douglas Brooks of the Asian Development Bank Institute, Tokyo emphasised the fact that in a globalised environment, the absence of competition rules can be damaging local business as well as consumers. Marc Proksch of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) spoke of the need for Asian economies to promote competition at the domestic level in order to be globally competitive.

Referring to the general opposition of the business community to the adoption and implementation of competition law, Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International pointed out that even business has an important stake in creating a competitive environment, as about 50% of goods and services produced in a country are used by business themselves. It has been found that intermediate goods sectors and services sectors are more prone to abusive business practices, which are adversely affect the business community.

The meeting, organised by CUTS International , an India-based international research and advocacy group, was also the Final Review Conference of an international project entitled, ‘Advocacy and Capacity Building on Competition Policy and Law in Asia’ (7Up2 Project) (www.cuts-international.org/7up2.htm). The Project, implemented by CUTS and supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco), the Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID), UK, is a multi-stakeholder initiative endeavouring to accelerate the process towards a functional competition policy and law for select countries in Southeast Asia and in South Asia, and advance the enabling environment for such law and policy to be better enforced. Under the project, detailed research was carried out in the select countries along side organising training programmes for the competition authority officials and representatives of other stakeholder groups.

The findings of the project, though based on select six countries of the region, do provide good and practical lessons for other countries as well. Apart from the project partners representing leading civil society organisations, research institutions and consumer associations from the six project countries, the meeting also drew renowned experts on competition, representatives of inter-governmental organisations, and representatives of competition authorities.

The conference is to be followed by a three-day training programme on competition policy and law organised by the CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition (CIRC), an initiative of CUTS International mandated to build capacity on competition and regulatory issues, from 29th June to 1st July at the Bangkok Ambassador Hotel. The training sessions will be attended by the members of the Asian chapter of the International Network of Civil Society Organisations on Competition (INCSOC), members of the Board of Trade of Thailand (BOT), and the Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT).