ON-TOPIC: EUROPEAN UNION - FRANCE - AGRICULTURE - CARTELS - RESTRICTIVE PRACTICES - INTER-BRANCH ORGANIZATIONS - TRANSPARENCY - CONTRACTUALISATION - BELOW-COST RESALE PRICE

Agriculture and competition law, towards reconciliation?

What was implicit, and has been established in November 2017 by the Court of Justice in the judgment on endives, has been specifically laid down by the European legislator in the omnibus regulation of December 2017: the prohibition on cartels does not apply to producer organizations and inter-branch organizations, provided the objectives of the common agricultural policy are implemented. This clarification calls for two warnings. The first warning addresses the actors of the agriculture sector. This clarification is not an outright exemption. From now on producer and inter-branch organizations should aim to a proper analysis of any form whatsoever of exemption conditions in order to make the most of the possibilities. The advice issued by the Competition Authority last May should provide some help. The second warning addresses the French legislator and Government. The bill, currently under consideration, follows the General Assembly of the second half of 2017. The terrible situation of farmers is acknowledged, but the clarification on the applicability of Article 101 TFEU alone is not sufficient to solve the structural problems faced by farmers. Moreover, the French legislator has already failed several times in its search for other levers. Various avenues are explored to succeed in this task. First the contractualisation recommended by the Competition Authority, introduced in the Rural Code in 2013, is in the spotlight again. This time it is made compulsory, though, and with a daring correlation between upstream and downstream contract prices. Also, Title IV of the Commercial Code, so criticized because of its ineffectiveness, is in the eye of the hurricane. The extent of the prohibition of resale below cost is pointed out in experimental mode and, above all, the Government requests an authorization to reword this Title. The challenge that the Government is setting out for itself is huge. Every effort must be done to save the farmers.

Introduction Catherine Prieto Professeur, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris I) – IRJS 1. Singulière impuissance des pouvoirs publics à garantir des relations commerciales justes dans le secteur agricole et alimentaire ! Elle n’est pas nouvelle. Les historiens de l’économie nous enseignent que, déjà dans l’Antiquité, des expériences autour du bassin méditerranéen ont pu révéler une tension entre la liberté du commerce et un contrôle administratif [1]. C’est d’ailleurs sous la pression des famines qu’est née, dès cette époque, la prise de conscience de la nocivité des monopoles et des ententes, appelés alors “coalitions”. Or, en réponse aux crises, les autorités politiques ont, de tout temps, recouru à une réglementation tatillonne et souvent inefficace, de l’époque romaine jusqu’au xviiie siècle. On comprend

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Catherine Prieto, Daniel Fasquelle, Léna Sersiron, Juliette Thery-Schultz, Romain Travade, Jean-Christophe Grall, Caroline Bellone, Julia Xoudis, Marie-Alice Fasquelle-Leonetti, Agriculture and competition law, towards reconciliation?, September 2018, Concurrences Review N° 3-2018, Art. N° 87501, pp. 19-43

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