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The objectives of competition law and policy and the optimal design of a competition agency

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This article comprises two notes by the Secretariat, one on the Objectives of Competition Law and Policy and the other one on the Optimal Design of a Competition Agency. Both notes were prepared to provide a framework for discussion at the meeting of the Global Forum on Competition (GFC) held on 10-11 February 2003. It was decided to link these topics together in the GFC's agenda after it was recognised that the objectives of competition law and policy can have an important bearing on the optimal design of a competition institution. However, it was agreed that the treatment of objectives should be oriented primarily towards a discussion of how they relate, or may relate, to the design of competition enforcement institutions within the broader government. Accordingly, the note on objectives does not fully explore the pros and cons of specific objectives that may be included in the competition law and policy objectives of one or more jurisdictions, although this topic is discussed to a degree.

The principal focus of the two notes is to provide an analysis and synthesis of the responses to two questionnaires that were sent in advance to GFC meeting participants in respect of the respective topics. In addition, the objectives note incorporates some of the additional information provided by participants in their separate written contributions prepared for circulation at the GFC meeting.

The most important themes emerging from the questionnaires and written contributions on Objectives were i) among OECD countries, there appears to be a shift away from use of competition laws to promote what might be characterised as broad public interest objectives; ii) there does not appear to be a strong correlation between competition law and policy objectives (broadly defined) and the design of the competition agency; iii) greater independence also was the step/measure most frequently identified as being likely to lead to better promotion/attainment of the articulated objectives.

Turning to the note on Optimal Design, the key themes emerging from the responses to the questionnaire were i) there is a broad variety of different models and approaches to the design of competition agencies within the overall apparatus of government (broadly defined); ii) despite the institutional variety, there is a core of common tasks assigned to most competition agencies. Specifically, these agencies normally investigate, take at least certain kinds of decisions on competition cases and engage in competition advocacy; iii) around half the respondents reported having medium influence on their governments, legislative bodies, and other bodies of public administration through advocacy initiatives.

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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 2003-05-01

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