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China-EU Cooperation on Competition Policy

A senior EU official expressed confidence in China's competition policy at a joint conference in Beijing on Friday.

"I am delighted to see the increased prominence that competition policy has gained in China and the development of competition law on which the Ministry of Commerce has been working," said Philip Lowe, director general of the European Commission's competition directorate.

The EU-China Conference on Competition Policy forms part of the competition policy dialogue as established by the signing of terms of reference on May 6, 2004, the first such dialogue initiated by China with a foreign jurisdiction.

The dialogue deals in particular with antitrust law and enforcement, including exchange of views on new developments on legislation and enforcement; merger of control in a global economy; liberalization of public utility sectors and state intervention in the market process; exchange of views on multilateral competition initiatives, in particular on hardcore cartels; raising corporate and public awareness of competition.

The structured dialogue will help foster the interests of both European and Chinese companies when doing business in each other's territories and will create a more stable environment for foreign direct investment, said Lowe.

He said that to support this dialogue, the EU is also financing a study aimed at helping the Ministry of Commerce develop competition law and policy by explaining the EU's approach and experience.

Economic reform policies, such as liberalization and privatization, cannot be expected to automatically contribute to economic growth if competition law and its enforcement infrastructure are lacking, said Lowe.

"We are looking forward to seeing a full-fledged competition regime covering both anti-trust and merger rules in operation in China soon," he said.

He also said that in the increasingly globalized economy, open and competitive markets offer enormous opportunities for all players. In this context, Europe is supporting market-oriented reforms throughout the world and the introduction of competition regimes that go with them.

Ma Xiuhong, vice minister of commerce, said at the conference that China and the EU are faced with similar challenges in the promotion of competition policy and creation of an integrated internal market. They are both striving to create an environment for state companies and private companies, big companies and small and medium sized companies to compete fairly.

Currently, the EU is China's largest trading partner, and with China's entry into the WTO and an improved investment environment, more and more EU companies are entering the Chinese market. At the same time, the EU has gradually become the investment priority of some big Chinese names, said Ma.

She said that in this context, China-EU cooperation on competition policy will be mutually beneficial. China values and is making reference to the EU's experiences in forming its own policy.

China has been working on anti-monopoly legislation since 1994 and a draft was submitted to the State Council for review last year. The law is expected to be promulgated next year, according to Ma.

Apart from bilateral cooperation on competition policy, China and the EU also agreed on multilateral cooperation in this field.

The increasing integration of the world economy, as reflected by the rise in multi-jurisdictional mergers and anti-competitive conduct across borders, makes international cooperation vital for competition authorities not only in development but also in enforcement of the law, according to Lowe.

Competition policy must be developed in a convergent way across the world on one hand and respect the sovereignty of individual countries and authorities on the other, said Lowe.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Yuan Fang, April 23, 2005)

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