New York, September 27, 2013

“The multilateral trading system is dead and the Doha round is in trouble largely because of lack of US leadership” said Jagdish Bhagwati, University Professor, Columbia University, while delivering the 10th CUTS 30th Anniversary Lecture at New York.

According to Bhagwati, the Doha Lite deal being attempted in Bali, is like a decaf and light coffee and we are trying to save the Doha round, which is similar to the steps taken to save the Cancun round on climate change issues.

He said that the multilateral negotiations are crippled and they received another blow by the formations of the regional and bilateral deals. These are all very big deals–they’re not small bilateral deals that privilege a small number of countries and discriminate against everyone else. Their preference areas are very large, and they overlap. And they’re all following a similar model in terms of a comprehensive trade agenda, though they have different regional perspectives.

“Let us make sure that we don’t harm the weakest among us in the trading system, because the countries that are left out of these super-regional arrangements are the African countries, a few Asian countries, and some Latin American countries” he said. “Thus, the important question to be pondered over is that the preferentials, such as Trans Pacific and Trans Atlantic, are the only game in town and how does it impact the WTO”.

Also speaking on the occasion were Eleanor M Fox, Professor, New York University School of Law; Ken Davies, Vice Dean and Professor, New York University School of Law; and Merit E Janow, Dean, Columbia School of International and Public Affairs chaired the session. Trevor Morrison, Dean, New York University, School of Law; Peter Henry, Dean, Leonard N Stern, School of Business, New York University welcomed all the speakers and guests at the well attended event.

Professor Fox briefly spoke about the importance of competition policy and law on development. According to her, competition law and policy is one among several links in the chain, all necessary links, to empower the less and least well off. It empowers the institutions to knock down barriers and remove restraints which impede the opportunities to the poor.

She referred to the work undertaken by CUTS through the 7Up initiative i.e. Bottom Up Approach and mentioned about the various reports that have been produced which provide evidence from across the globe on how anti-competitive barriers are created, so as to deprive the common consumers and producers from participating in the economy.

“Barriers can be created by various means and mechanisms, such as cartelization, public and private restraints and thus, it is important to empower the institutions to tackle such barriers. This, is one the key roles played by Competition Policy, which empowers people and institutions to access and benefit from economic opportunities, by bringing down such barriers” she emphasised.

Professor spoke at length regarding the important role that can be played by competition policy. One important aspect that she touched upon was that well-functioning markets are important for pro-poor growth. Market failure hurts the poor disproportionately and the poor may be disadvantaged by the terms on which they participate in markets. Thus, programmes are needed to ensure that markets that matter for their livelihoods work better for the poor and policies, such as Competition Policy to tackle market failure should be aimed at increasing economic capabilities of the poor.

Kevin Davis briefly spoke about the importance of tackling corruption. He emphasised that it is extremely important for organisations such as CUTS to be directly involved in issues pertaining to corruption. Given the engagement of CUTS with policymakers and at the grassroots, the organisation is well placed to take on corruption related issues, as it requires mobilization of people at the ground level and having the reach to the policymakers at the top.

He highlighted some of the actions being taken at an international level, with the passing of the Anti-Bribery Law in the UK, followed by a large number of countries, OECD�s efforts, International Anti-Money laundering law, UN Convention on Corruption etc.

Davis stressed on the need to work on corruption issues, as because investors use indicators such as global indicators for corruption, when taking decisions on whether to invest in a country or not. Thus, it is important to take cognizance of such issues and there is the need to think on what one can do about the same.

There was a lively Q&A session, when numerous micro and macro issues were raised by the over 80 participants in the hall. One interesting question was raised on how climate change issues can be dealt with under the competition policy rubric. In response, Pradeep Mehta pointed out that competition not only promotes good governance but also innovation which leads to a reduced burden on environment, as firms innovate to produce goods and services at the lowest costs. “We are engaged in case studies to show the linkage between competition policy and climate change”.

Professor Merit Janow, in the chair�s summary, recalled her old association with CUTS and said that the event which has featured three eminent speakers on various governance aspects of developing countries will help take the CUTS agenda forward.

Marking an end to the session, Mehta in his remarks highlighted the important work being undertaken by CUTS in the areas of trade, regulation and governance, which will continue to guide the organisation�s agenda over the future.

For further information please contact:
Udai S Mehta, +919829285926 or +12022584856,