Hanoi 24 April 2004

“We may have already drafted a competition law but implementing it will be a gigantic task and we will welcome outside assistance for it”, observed Mr. Truong Quang Hoai Nam, Director General, Legal Department of the Ministry of Trade of Vietnam. Mr. Nam was speaking at an international seminar at Hanoi. The seminar, organised by CUTS-International Centre for Competition, Investment & Economic Regulation, an India-based research and advocacy organisation, also launched a cross-country research-based advocacy and capacity building programme, codenamed “7-Up Mark II”, aimed at accelerating the process toward an appropriate competition policy & law, in three Mekong countries viz. Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam.

International competition experts from Asia, Africa, Europe and America met on 23 & 24 April, 2004 in Hanoi to debate on the desirability, optimal content and structure of the competition policy & law that developing countries should implement to promote effective markets for economic development. Officials from the Department for International Development (DFID-United Kingdom), Federal Trade Commission (FTC-United States), Foundation for Effective Market and Governance (FEMAG-Australia), State Secretariat for Economic Affairs-Switzerland (SECO), Swiss Competition Commission (COMCO), World Trade Organisation (WTO) joined experts from Australia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, as well as local consultants of project countries, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam to present their viewpoints and share firsthand experiences as regards competition policy & law and its implementation performance across the world.
The participants in the seminar were unanimous in recognising that with all these countries shifting from a planning-based to market-oriented economy, the role of competition policy becomes important to ensure protection of consumer interest as well as long-term economic interest of the countries. With the liberalised economic policies welcoming foreign goods and companies the market situation has become even more complicated.

“The competition law has to be supported and promoted by efficient institutions, which are well equipped with sufficient capacity and skills”, observed Ross Jones, former Commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Toward such policies and concomitant institutions, it is necessary, at the first instance, for developing countries to foster public acceptance as well as widespread participation and contribution of various national stakeholders into the designing and implementation of competition policy and law.

The role of civil society, especially consumer organisations, is important in such a process to sustain momentum towards appropriate policy change, and to preserve the merits of reforms. This is a point which has guided the designing of the project, said Mr. Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General-CUTS International. This also the reason that the participants in the seminar were drawn from all major stakeholders groups, including chambers of commerce, government, academia, media, as well as civil society. It was noted that Vietnam already has consumer organisations which need to be strengthened, while in others countries consumer movement needs to be created.
Mr. Mehta also emphasised that the project was not intended to tell these countries what to do but to facilitate the policy-makers and other stakeholders of these countries to decide for themselves what to do and how to do.