The conference began with opening remarks by Mr Bronislaw Komorowski (President of the Republic of Poland), Ms Malgorzata Krasnodebska-Tomkiel (President, Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection) and Mr Eduardo Pérez Motta (ICN Chair and President, Mexican Federal Competition Commission) and with a keynote speech by Mr Joaquín Almunia (EC Vice-President and Commissioner for Competition).
In the ensuing high-level panel discussion, Deputy Director-General Singh highlighted the complementary roles of competition policy and the opening of international trade and investment as bulwarks of a prosperous global economy. In our strongly interlinked world, with the increasing predominance of supply chains in economic activity, the opening up of services sectors, technological changes creating further inter-linkages, and the greater role of a larger number of developing countries in trade and investment, he said that it is extremely important to have systems that enhance good governance and augment economic opportunities.
Similar to the multilateral trading system, said DDG Singh, competition policy is also an essential element of good governance. It has only become more significant in light of the importance of supply chains, which require facilitated procedures to improve cost-efficiency and timeliness, and a need to provide a level playing field in our interconnected world, especially for small and medium enterprises which play a major role for generating employment and income opportunities.
DDG Singh pointed out that competition policy is relevant to all types of economies although the appropriate implementation of such policy may well vary in light of the relative size and level of development of particular jurisdictions. Furthermore, the principles underlying competition policy are relevant for the efficient implementation of both commercial and social policy objectives.
DDG Singh cited the WTO’s Reference Paper on Regulatory Principles in the basic telecommunications services sector as an example of the intermingling of competition policy standards and international trade policy. In addition, he highlighted the area of public procurement as one in which the roles of trade liberalization and competition policy are strongly complementary: the former makes possible beneficial mutual opening of procurement markets to international competition while the latter guards against the practice of bid rigging, which directly undermines the benefits of market opening. These were examples which showed that while open markets provide greater opportunities, good governance systems such as the multilateral trading system and competition policy allow economic stakeholders to maximize the gains from these opportunities.
Other speakers on the high-level panel were Pierre Guislain (Director, Investment Climate Department & FIAS, World Bank Group), Witold Orlowski (former Chief Economist to the President of Poland and presently Chief Economist, PwC) and Paul Lugard (Chair, Commission on Competition, International Chamber of Commerce). Pierre Guislain and Witold Orlowski espoused a broad concept of competition policy encompassing elements of market opening in addition to competition law enforcement. Paul Lugard stressed the importance of work by the ICN and other organizations to promote the sound application of competition policy to support international trade, investment and development.
The International Competition Network comprises competition agencies from 111 jurisdictions worldwide. More than 500 people attended the conference.