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Competition laws should be nationality-blind

Paris, 30 April 2003 - The International Chamber of Commerce has set out core principles that business wants covered in any multilateral agreement on competition policy under the Doha Round, arguing that competition laws should be "nationality-blind."

Apart from non-discrimination, the principles include transparency, procedural fairness and the protection of confidential information.

An ICC statement on the interaction between trade and competition policy in the World Trade Organization strikes a note of caution, stating that significant differences remain between national competition laws, and that bridging them will require time.

Stating that competition laws should not discriminate on the basis of nationality, the ICC statement - drawn up by business experts serving on its Commissions on Competition and Trade and Investment - says laws that expressly favour local as against foreign firms "distort trade and undermine the credibility of competition policy generally."

The statement added: "They risk becoming instruments of protectionism rather than a guardian of open and efficient markets." It said that any WTO competition agreement should include "an appropriately-tailored prohibition on de jure nationality-based discrimination."

On due process and transparency, the ICC statement said both principles were essential "because they provide stakeholders - the public, consumers and competitors - some assurance that the system will produce consistent and national results and generate confidence in … competition law enforcement."

ICC said it gave "full support" to increased international cooperation on the detection and punishment of hard core cartels - formed through agreements by competitors to fix prices or make rigged bids, or to establish output restrictions or quotas.

But the statement added that action against hard core cartels should not negate the need for legal safeguards and protections for parties involved in investigations, who might or might not be proved guilty.

  · Competition policy in the WTO: Doha Declaration issues