Recent decades have witnessed a marked internationalization
of competition law enforcement and dialogue. Multinational, regional
and bilateral efforts have contributed to the approximation of competition
law regimes worldwide and to collaborative enforcement. However,
notwithstanding these valuable developments, domestic social, political,
industrial and market considerations still affect the scope and application of
national competition laws. This article explores the meeting points between
the domestic perspective of competition law enforcement and growing
international collaboration and enforcement efforts. In doing so, it highlights
the intrinsic national nature which is embedded in the DNA of competition
law and the natural limits of international convergence and collaboration in
Recent decades have been characterized by increased internationalization of competition
law enforcement. A record number of jurisdictions have adopted competition laws and
invested in effective enforcement mechanisms.
A remarkable effort at international
level has resulted in the proliferation of collaborative networks, assimilation of law
and policy and cross-fertilization. To the benefit of consumers worldwide, it has led to
increased proficiency in tackling anticompetitive activities.
This trend reflects an almost global consensus on the benefits of free competitive
markets. The international landscape is characterized by increasing discussions and joint activities at the multinational, regional and bilateral levels. At the multinational
level, the Competition Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD), the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Competition
Law and Policy of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
(UNCTAD) and the International Competition Network (ICN) have contributed to
greater proficiency in the enforcement of competition laws.
Regional fora such as
the Association of East Asian Nations and the African Competition Forum have
promoted competition principles tailored to their needs.
Bilateral agreements on
competition law also have contributed to close cooperation and assimilation between
The increased convergence and collaborations are remarkable, especially when
one considers the complexity and domestic nature of competition enforcement.
Indeed, competition law and policy are rooted in the domestic landscape, culture,
economic development and market reality. While sharing similar rhetoric, they
advance a wide, and at times diverse, range of values. The visible international
dialogue and collaboration may at times mask this reality, creating an imprecise
impression of a homogenous landscape. Yet, these domestic variables affect and,
at times, limit the nature of international cooperation and collaboration and also
determine the zeal with which agencies pursue various infringements and set their
In this article, we explore the domestic perspective, which is embedded in the
DNA of competition law. By pointing to the intrinsic nature of competition law,
we consider the interface between the domestic and international perspectives. In
doing so, we illustrate the natural limits to international convergence and reflect on
the realistic outcomes of collaboration.
It is important to clarify at the outset that our aim is not to question, nor
discount, the significant benefits that stem from increased cooperation worldwide.
International cooperation efforts have transformed the enforcement landscape of
competition law and will continue to do so for years to come. They provide an
invaluable contribution to the process of harmonization and to efficient enforcement.
The discussion in this article is more nuanced: while recognizing the benefits of
international efforts, we consider the way in which the domestic perspective affects
these efforts and ultimately limits their outcome. Understanding the domestic and international dimensions assists in setting realistic goals and expectations and
contributes to identifying the areas where convergence is desirable and practicable.
We begin our review with a discussion of the common, core aims of
competition law and note the similar foundations, which underpin economic
thinking. Following this, we explore a range of domestic variables, which result in
a more complex reality. We consider the way in which domestic culture, politics
and market characteristics affect the stated goals and implementation of domestic
competition laws and dictate a process of soft harmonization.