The questions for this interview were assembled by the Editorial Committee of Concurrences Review : Nicolas Charbit, Chief editor of Concurrences, Alain Ronzano, Editor of « L’actu-concurrence » and Christophe Lemaire, Partner Ashurst – Associate Professor, Sorbonne Law School (University Paris I).
1. Are you convinced that, without being an end in itself, the proper functioning of competition is, even in times of crisis, a means of promoting economic growth in the form of more innovation, lower prices, improved quality of products and services and increased employment? Is promoting competition a good way of combating unemployment?
2. What role do you think competition policy should play in a changing world such as the one we are living in? Competition advocates a controlled opening of trade. However, recent trends are rather towards tighter controls and closure (as evidenced by Brexit, the rise of extremism and populism).
3. Citizens and businesses (French or European) often note that their development in certain third countries is constrained or limited by the rules applicable in those countries, whereas in Europe third country businesses can freely carry out their activities and even take control of national companies (one thinks, for example, of the situation of airports). Do you share this observation of asymmetry in trade? If so, what means do you see to remedy it?
4. Do you see Europe lagging behind other regions of the world (USA, China...)? How can a European competition policy fight against such a dropout? Helping to create European champions in the new technologies sector? Promote national preference? Encourage or force the relocation of production, as advocated by President Trump?
5. In the wake of Brexit, should France ask itself whether it should maintain its position and place in the Union? Do you wish to renegotiate the European treaties on competition? How should we react to the increased risk of subsidies by the British government in order to avoid the departure of companies and to attract foreign companies?
6. Do you envisage renegotiating international agreements with a competition component?
7. The European Commission has undertaken to combat the tax optimisation used by the industry giants. To do so, it is using the weapon of state aid control. Do you consider that it is legitimate for it to control the fiscal policy of the Member States by means of state aid control?
8. The emphasis so far has been on deterring cartels by means of financial penalties. Is this the only right way forward? Should a more diversified policy of sanctioning anti-competitive practices be envisaged, targeting not only firms but also individuals within firms who have played a decisive part in the most reprehensible practices? If so, should the answer be criminal only, or could administrative sanctions against natural persons be envisaged?
9. The leniency procedure has existed in Europe for twenty years and in France for about fifteen years. Do you think that the authorities’ detection arsenal should be supplemented by remunerating competition whistleblowers (as in Great Britain, for example)?
10. The founding text of competition law, the ordinance of 1 December 1986, has just celebrated its 30th anniversary. What is your assessment of this text and of the amendments that have been made to it over time (NRE, LME, Macron law, etc.)? Is it time to consider a new global reform? If so, what should be the main thrust of it?
11. Successive reforms of competition law have focused on the role of the Competition Authority or its predecessors. However, in the chain of decision-making and control of anti-competitive practices, the economic courts, and in particular the Paris Court of Appeal, which concentrates the processing of appeals against the decisions of the Competition Authority, still do not appear to have adequate resources for the scope of their missions. In your opinion, should the resources allocated to the economic courts be increased?
12. What is your assessment of the transfer of merger control to the Competition Authority in 2008? While no transaction has yet been expressly refused, several transactions have been withdrawn in light of the reluctance expressed by the Authority (telecoms, street furniture, etc.), without the Minister of the Economy making use of his power of evocation. In this context, do you consider it necessary to change the balance of power between the independent administrative authority and the political authorities? In particular, should the notion of "economic and social surplus" be clarified?
13. What do you propose to reduce the dependence of the agri-food sector on large-scale distribution? Should the grouping of agricultural producers be organised?
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