At the recent WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, WTO members called for the launch of negotiations on disciplines relating to competition, on the basis of explicit consensus on modalities to be agreed at the 5th WTO ministerial in 2003. Discussions in WTO since 1997 have revealed little support for ambitious multilateral action. Proponents of WTO antitrust disciplines currently propose an agreement that is limited to ‘core principles’ – nondiscrimination, transparency, and provisions banning ‘hard core’ cartels. We argue that an agreement along such lines will create compliance costs for developing countries while not addressing the anticompetitive behavior of firms located in foreign jurisdictions. To be unambiguously beneficial to low-income countries, any WTO antitrust disciplines should recognize the capacity constraints that prevail in these economies, make illegal collusive business practices by firms with international operations that raise prices in developing country markets, and require competition authorities in high-income countries to take action against firms located in their jurisdictions in defense of the interests of affected developing country consumers. More generally, a case is made that traditional liberalization commitments using existing WTO fora will be the most effective means of lowering prices and increasing access to an expanded variety of goods and services.
Bernard Hoekman & Petros C. Mavroidis,
Economic Development, Competition Policy, and the World Trade Organization,
Journal of World Trade, Vol. 37, p. 1, 2003; World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 2917
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