12th New Frontiers of Antitrust Conference #1 Opening keynote speech by Bruno Le Maire & Foreign Direct Investment Control

1st Webinar of the 12th « New Frontiers of Antitrust Conference » organised by Concurrences, in partnership with Analysis Group, Intesa Sanpaolo and White & Case. Opening remarks by Frédéric Jenny (Chairman, OECD Competition Committee | Professor, ESSEC) and Bruno Le Maire (French Minister for the Economy and Finance). Panel with Calvin S. Goldman, QC (Principal, Law Office of Calvin Goldman, Q.C), Damien Levie (Head of Unit - Technology and Security, FDI Screening, DG TRADE), Angelika Milger (Government counsel - Division VB1, German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy), Jacques Moscianese (Group Head of Institutional Affairs, Intesa Sanpaolo), Mark Powell (Partner, White & Case) and Martha Samuelson (CEO & Chairman, Analysis Group).

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Frederic Jenny welcomed the participants, noting that this year’s conference takes place in a context where Europe is adapting its competition policy and competition law in several areas. For example, the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation, which expires at the end of May 2022, will soon be reformed. The DMA initiative also promises to set in place an ex ante regulation targeted at the problems raised by gatekeeper platforms and the risk that they will abuse their power vis-à-vis their business partners or complementors. Covid-19 has also required many European states to distribute large packs of State aids, which may turn to have unintended effects in the form of zombie firms. In a period of declining public subsidies and possibly increasing interest rates, how should we deal with the possible failure of zombie firms? Does the “failing-firm defense” offer an adequate framework to deal with this issue?

Bruno Le Maire pointed his commitment to the principles of competition which make it possible to define rules of the game which are fair, guarantee greater competitiveness, and, above all, the best possible service for consumers. Europe needs to ensure reciprocity with its counterparts as France has been doing in the past four years. Thus, in 2020, 275 transactions were subject to review under regulations on foreign investment control in France, and control of foreign investments has been a constant priority for the government. In the French PACTE Law (Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation) were added new sectors to be controlled — in particular, power storage technologies, robotics, artificial intelligence, and semiconductors. However, these measures have not slowed down the attractiveness of France for foreign investors – and France remains number-one position on the continent for international investments.

Reciprocity must also be defended by fighting against foreign subsidies. The proposal for a regulation concerning protection against subsidisation by countries not members of the European Community is a step in the right direction to remedy distortion of competition on the internal market caused by undertakings benefiting from government subsidies in third countries. Regarding taxation, the government is sparing no efforts in this area as well to achieve a new and fair international framework.

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