PRESS BRIEF

COMPETITION POLICIES

    Whether the WTO establishes a work programme to study competition rules and policies is one of the important items at the Ministerial Conference in Singapore in December 1996. The issue is not whether the WTO should negotiate rules in this area but whether it should initiate an exploratory and analytical work programme to identify areas requiring further attention in the WTO framework.

    As governmental barriers to trade have been reduced, the need to examine private measures with a potentially trade-distorting effect has become necessary. In an increasingly global economy, differences in competition policy norms and effectiveness of enforcement have more marked international consequences, underscoring the importance of mutually-supportive trade and competition policies. Competition policy issues interface with a growing range of WTO activities, giving rise to an increasing need to ensure the mutual coherence of the two policy areas.

    Consideration of the connection between trade and competition policy dates to the origins of the GATT, in the stillborn Havana Charter for an International Trade Organization. Adoption of the charter would have consolidated the issues covered by the GATT and issues of restrictive business practices into a single international trade treaty. New work was undertaken in the late 1950s in the GATT on restrictive business practices. This led to the establishment of a consultation procedure, invoked in the recent case relating to Fuji and Kodak. In the years that followed, extensive work on trade and competition policy was carried out in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    In the GATT/WTO context, competition policy issues are contained in a number of areas in the Uruguay Round agreements. The GATS and TRIPS Agreement contain provisions directly relating to the control of anti-competitive practices. These relate not only to questions of market access and fair conditions of competition, but also to international cooperation to facilitate the control of anti-competitive practices. In this connection, it is also important to note that the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures is to be reviewed by the end of 1999. At that time the WTO's Council for Trade in Goods will discuss whether or not the TRIMs Agreement should be complemented with provisions on investment policy and competition policy.


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