New York

Concurrences Annual Private NYC Dinner: US/EU Hot Antitrust Issues: The Atlantic Divide?

Annual Concurrences Private Dinner organized with the support of Bank of America, Bates White, Cornerstone Research, Charles River Associates, Gibson Dunn, and White & Case.

Conference Summary

On September 14, 2017, Johannes Laitenberger (Director-General, DG COMP) and Roger Alford (Deputy Assistant Attorney General, US DOJ) delivered keynote speeches at the 2017 New York Concurrences Review Annual Dinner. Drawing from their own practice experiences, both Laitenberger and Alford addressed the need for closer international cooperation. Andrew Finch (then Acting Assistant Attorney General, US DOJ) introduced Roger Alford and also participated in the session of Questions & Answers moderated by Frédéric Jenny (Chairman, OECD Competition Committee).

JOHANNES LAITENBERGER

A Common History

Laitenberger opened his speech by discussing whether there is “Atlantic divide” on antitrust issues on the two sides of the Atlantic - between the EU and the US. Using the image of a tree fork, Laitenberger remarked that although both EU and US competition law stem from the same trunk - Roman Law, they took somewhat different shapes as the legal tradition “continued to evolve in Europe through the centuries - branched off when rules against unfair business practices were introduced in North America at the end of the 19th century and in Europe after World War II.”

Today, the “main difference” between the two lies “in the broader context rather in points of law or procedure.” Specifically, the integrated US market rests in a federation that is almost 250 years old, whereas the European Union is relatively young and composed of sovereign countries. Laitenberger noted that “There are still gaps at regional and city levels in the US economy, but barriers such as those to inter-state commerce began to be removed around the time the Sherman act was passed. In contrast, the EU single market is still a work-in-progress and helping to build it is precisely one of the statutory goals of Europe’s competition enforcers.” He then explained the goal of building an EU single market in more details, saying it is “not at odds with the underlying principles of competition enforcement. In fact, the benefits of a large, well-oiled internal market overlap with the benefits of robust enforcement. Both improve doing-business conditions and attract business; both make markets more efficient on all sides – that is, for firms and households; both give Europeans lower prices and wider choice. In addition, a single market that encompasses the world’s largest trading bloc levels the playing field between competition enforcers in the EU and today’s corporate behemoths.”

Evolution in the EU

Photos © Vincent Soyez

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