September 22, 2011, Geneva

In his opening remarks to lay out the agenda of the symposium, Frederic Jenny, Chairman, Competition Committee, OECD, emphasised the need for international agreement on competition to shield developing countries from the adverse effects of export cartels in primary product markets, for example, through an outright ban by developed countries on export cartels based in these countries or through a reverse antidumping agreement in the WTO.

Jenny was speaking at the International Symposium on “Trade in Primary Products and Competition Policy” organised by CUTS here in Geneva today, in association with the Centre for Economic Policy Research, and the support of the Agencie Francaise Developpement and the European Commission under its PEGGED programme.

The one day symposium facilitated by the World Trade Organisation was opened by its Deputy Director General Alejandro Jara who provided the larger context of the debate on the interface of trade and competition policy in his keynote address.

Ramamurti Badrinath, Director, CUTS Geneva Resource Centre, welcomed the participants and outlined the objective of the Symposium as enhancing the understanding about the existing challenges in the functioning of primary product markets so as to evolve a comprehensive economic governance regime to address anti-competitive behaviour and other related concerns. The symposium heard presentations and comments from about twenty international trade and competition experts and was attended by representatives of Geneva country missions, international and non-governmental organisations, and academic institutions.

The Symposium was divided into four substantive sessions, chaired by Ambassador Tim Yeend of Australia, Guillermo Valles, Director, Trade Division of UNCTAD, Michael Plummer, Head Development Division of OECD, and Flavio Damico, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil to the WTO.

Simon Evenett, Professor at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland spoke on the need to strengthen provisions in the WTO against export provisions. According to him, in the absence of such provisions, the number of export prohibitions by countries in 2011 will soon reach the heights witnessed in 2008.

Aradhna Agarwal, Director, CUTS presented a recent study by CUTS that has documented the adverse impacts of export cartels and export prohibitions on importing developing countries. She also argued for effective international action against export cartels including through a better multilateral regime on competition rules.

Ramamurthi Badrinath of CUTS closed the Symposium by outlining an agenda for future work based on the rich discussions during the event. This will include: more empirical work to understand the specificities of the primary product markets, clearer and stronger advocacy with policy makers for better policies to deal with export cartels and export prohibitions, discussions on good and bad practices at neutral fora, and persuading both the governments and the private sector to refrain from indulging in anticompetitive behavior. CUTS will continue to work with its partners to take this agenda forward.