The International Competition Network (ICN) and the World Bank Group are pleased to announce the launch of the 2023 Competition Advocacy Contest. This contest aims to highlight the key role competition agencies, sector regulators and other governmental bodies or non-governmental organizations play in promoting competition by showcasing their advocacy success stories.
Watch the recording of the award ceremony of the ICN-WBG Competition Advocacy Contest 2023 held in Barcelona, Spain. (en Español)
The International Competition Network (ICN) and the World Bank Group (WBG) are pleased to share the results of the 2023 Competition Advocacy Contest. By showcasing success stories of effective competition advocacy, the contest aims to raise awareness of the key role played by competition agencies, government entities and non-governmental organizations in promoting competition and tackling the most pressing economic challenges facing countries today.
Seven winning stories and four stories worthy of honorable mention were selected among 29 entries submitted by both government authorities and non-governmental organizations from around the world, along the following themes:
- Theme 1 – Embedding competition principles in public policies, especially when responding to crises
- Theme 2 - Advocating for competition across borders to meet global challenges
- Theme 3 - Reinforcing market institutions to deliver better market outcomes
- Theme 4 - Supporting the climate change agenda through competition policy
Panelists of the ICN-WBG 2023 Competition Advocacy Contest:
- Eleanor M. Fox, Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation, New York University School of Law
- Mariana Tavares de Araujo, Senior Partner, Levy & Salomão Advogados
- Martha Martinez Licetti, Practice Manager; Markets, Competition and Technology Global Unit; Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice, the World Bank
- Graciela Miralles Murciego, Senior Economist; Markets, Competition and Technology Global Unit; Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice, the World Bank
Theme 1 - Embedding competition principles in public policies, especially when responding to crises
In 2022, the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) supported the adoption of a National Competitive Neutrality Strategy by the Cabinet of Ministers. This initiative is particularly relevant given the role of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) in the MENA region and beyond. The strategy, focusing on ensuring a level playing field in markets with SOE participation, included the creation of a High Committee for Competition Policy and Competitive Neutrality chaired by the Prime Minister. ECA developed a competitive neutrality index to evaluate the impact of the Committee’s decisions, conducted comprehensive sector-wide assessments in key markets with SOE presence and hosted more than 50 workshops to raise awareness. These efforts resulted on the elimination of anti-competitive state measures benefiting 72 million citizens and reducing government spending by almost USD 3 million annually.
Facing a price increase of 160% in wood chips following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Latvian Competition Council (LCC) conducted a market study on the wood chip market, widely used in district heating systems. This initiative exemplifies a surgical response during a crisis, effectively contributing to address a pressing market issue. The LCC aimed to pinpoint the factors driving this price spike and propose effective remedies. The study revealed that geopolitical factors, import restrictions, and general inflation were key reasons for the price surge. However, the LCC also found that the relations between wood chips suppliers and district heating companies might reduce competition in public procurements. Based on the recommendations of the LCC, the Ministry of Economy started working on guidelines for tenders of wood chips.
Following severe floods in 2023, the New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC) provided guidance for competitors on how to cooperate during emergencies and advocated for the introduction of anti-collusion clauses in tender documents. As a complement, the NZCC launched an awareness campaign. The guidance, adapted from their previous work on business collaboration after COVID-19, aimed to ensure the continuity of essential goods and services supply during crises. This initiative emphasizes the critical role of competition authorities in times of crises as well as the importance of proactive action and multi-channel advocacy. One government agency has already introduced anti-collusion clauses in their procurement contracts.
Theme 2 - Advocating for competition across borders to meet global challenges
As a critical complement to the success of the Secretariat for the Economic Integration of Central America (SIECA), Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama have established the Central American Competition Committee and approved a regional competition regulation. This structure culminates a decade-long process to strengthen regional cooperation in the field of competition and enables cross-border notifications, consultations, exchanges of information, technical assistance, and training activities. Initiatives like this underscore the importance of reducing market barriers (behind the border) as a necessary complement to the elimination of trade barriers (border barriers).
The Committee is integrated by 13 representatives of the six counties as follows: from Costa Rica the Commission to Promote Competition (COPROCOM), the Superintendency of Telecommunications (SUTEL), Foreign Trade Ministry (COMEX); from El Salvador the Competition Superintendence (SC) and the Ministry of Economy; from Guatemala the Vice-ministry of Investment and Competition through the Direction for Competition Promotion of the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Economy; from Honduras the Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Competition (CDPC) and the Secretariat for Economic Development (SDE); from Nicaragua the National Institute for Competition Promotion (PROCOMPETENCIA) and the Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade (MIFIC); and finally, from Panama the Authority for Consumer Protection and the Defense of Competition (ACODECO) and the Ministry of Trade and Industries (MICI).
The increasing number of multijurisdictional cases is creating new challenges for competition authorities when it comes to the prohibition of double jeopardy. In Austria, a ne bis in idem claim for a cartel already fined in Germany was upheld by a court of first instance. The Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) appealed this decision before the Supreme Court with supporting amicus curiae submissions of both the Bundeskartellamt and the US Department of Justice. The Supreme Court sided with AFCA specifically referring to the amicus curiae. This unique collaboration among competition authorities confirms the potential impact of cross-border advocacy as a complement to domestic enforcement.
Theme 3 - Reinforcing market institutions to deliver better market outcomes
Building on its unique mandate to eliminate market barriers, the National Institute for the Defense of Free Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) engaged in an ambitious campaign to open regulated professional services at the subnational level. Based on behavioral economic tools, INDECOPI engaged with universities and professional associations to encourage voluntary elimination of barriers. The initiative resulted in the removal of 691 barriers in 23 universities and 39 barriers in 8 professional associations across six regions, reducing the average time for voluntary removal from 98 to 28 working days. These efforts led to lower administrative costs and improved access to regulated professions paired with more than USD 800,000 costs savings for professionals.
To improve local authorities' understanding of competition principles and enhance public interventions, the Spanish National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) launched the "Municipalities & Competition" initiative. The initiative tackled distortive municipal interventions in sectors such as urban mobility, telecommunications infrastructure deployment and renewable energy. Across the country, CNMC held workshops based on case studies engaging municipalities and stakeholders. This effort resulted in improved communication between the authority and the local stakeholders as well as increased interest in promoting competition at the local level.
Building on a US government statement underlining the importance of competition for a well-functioning economy, the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (DOJ) developed relationships with agencies across the US government through memoranda of understanding, training and education exchanges, case referrals, technical assistance, and formal comments to advocate for competition. This initiative, constituting a remarkable leap forward in the development of a comprehensive market institution ecosystem, has already yielded tangible results including more effective merger enforcement, referrals of matters for conduct investigations, and industry evaluations that have, in turn, led regulators to promulgate pro-competitive rules.
Underlining the importance of evaluating impact, the Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE) published eight ex-post assessments of its interventions in various markets, including PVC, medical supplies, and freight transport. Led by external experts, these assessments provide a quantifiable demonstration of the significant benefits generated by the competition authority's actions both for consumer welfare and public finances, including billion dollar damages following the approval by the judiciary of a merger blocked by COFECE. Rigorous ex-post analyses of competition authority activities play a pivotal role in promoting accountability and transparency, enhancing policymaking, optimizing resource allocation, and providing valuable insights for informed decision-making.
Theme 4 - Supporting the climate change agenda through competition policy
Showing a proactive commitment to embed competition principles in agreements needed for Green Transformation (GX), the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) introduced Guidelines to foster compliance and enhance business predictability. JFTC reinforced prior consultation mechanisms in this field by setting up a GX specialized contact point and publishing relevant aspects of GX consultations received. Further, JFTC conducted studies on key markets for the green economy including EV charging and plastic bottle recycling. This multi-pronged approach, including Guidelines, prior consultations and market studies, demonstrates JFTC's commitment to the Green Agenda while supporting legal certainty and effective competition.
Striving towards the goals of the European Green Deal and following a reform to gear the competition law towards sustainability, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) released sustainability guidelines. These guidelines develop the conditions for agreements among competitors to contribute to an ecologically sustainable and climate neutral economy. This initiative involved public consultation and input from a variety of stakeholders, including ministries, academic institutions and industry representatives and confirms the role of AFCA as a champion advocate for the role of competition policy in shaping green transformation.
As defined by the ICN, competition advocacy refers to activities that promote a competitive environment through non-enforcement mechanisms, such as building relationships with government entities, increasing public awareness of competition’s benefits and identifying and removing anticompetitive policies and regulations.
We are looking for success stories from competition agencies, other public bodies or civil society that demonstrate the tangible results of competition advocacy under four themes:
Theme 1 – Embedding competition principles in public policies, especially when responding to crises
Public policies designed without considering competition principles can hinder market dynamics. From just-in-time responses to healthcare or cost-of-living crises, to revamped industrial policies, privatization/nationalization processes or state aid schemes, public policies should strive to achieve their intended outcomes, whilst fostering open markets and a level playing field. For instance, extensive government support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, US$4.6 trillion by 2020 as per IMF estimations, amplified the risks around market power and competition, especially as supports tended to go to large, formal firms, SOEs, and generally more tech-enabled firms. Similarly, in June 2022, 34 countries imposed restrictions on exports on food and fertilizers in response to price shock in agricultural commodities and fertilizers (World Bank). When protecting competition may not be on the top of the policy agenda, competition advocacy becomes even more important.
Examples of initiatives recognized under this category include impactful initiatives to enhance policy design through competition principles.
Theme 2 – Advocating for competition across borders to meet global challenges
Countries and competition authorities face common challenges when addressing restrictions to competition, regardless of their regulatory frameworks or economic development, especially in the context of markets that are no longer bound by national borders. International cooperation initiatives to promote competition are key for facing regional and global challenges. Digital markets, relatively unconstrained by borders, are estimated to contribute more than 15% of global GDP. Supranational competition authorities cover more than 100 countries and anticompetitive practices are increasingly multijurisdictional, with the WBG database on cartels having identified 56 international cartels sanctioned only in the past 5 years. Multijurisdictional cooperation mechanisms, whether bilateral and multilateral, can be used to achieve results that build on joint strengths and peer experience.
Examples of initiatives recognized under this category include international cooperation initiatives to embed competition in domestic and global markets (e.g., supranational mechanisms to promote competition, joint bilateral or multilateral competition projects with tangible results or initiatives to support pro-competition results in foreign markets).
Theme 3 – Reinforcing market institutions to deliver better market outcomes
Strong market institutions, e.g. competition authorities, sector regulators, independent agencies and other public bodies that can shape market outcomes, are critical for promoting private sector development and driving economic growth. Reinforcing the resources and mandates of market institutions to embed competition principles in regulations, promote the synergies between competition and other policies such as consumer protection or data protection, and foster interinstitutional cooperation, especially when dealing with overlapping mandates, is key given that competition concerns often span across different sectors and institutional mandates. For instance, in digital markets and e-commerce antitrust, data protection and consumer protection often overlap with almost 70% of enforcement cases on media/communications raising data protection issues as per the WBG Global Digital Antitrust Database. Therefore, one well-supported response to the intersection of privacy and competition law has been to create new models of interagency coordination, as per the 2021 ICN Intersection Project Report.
Examples of initiatives recognized under this category include inter-institutional mechanisms (MoUs, joint procedures, formal/informal networks) to tackle competition challenges; strategies to reinforce the role of competition authorities, regulators and other market institutions to promote competition and connect it to other policies; regulatory sandboxes bringing together different institutions and regulatory frameworks to promote competition in new markets.
Theme 4 – Supporting the climate change agenda through competition policy
Governments and competition authorities are increasingly committed to leveraging competition policy as a tool to support climate action and promote sustainability more effectively. Often climate policy and competition policy coincide or reinforce each other as per the 2021 ICN Sustainable Development and Competition Law Report. In a WBG tracker of 2,500 industry support responses following the COVID-19 crisis, 891 were “green” policy measures, with most measures aim to increase Renewable Energy (15%), improve Energy Efficiency (14%), foster Innovation and R&D (7%), and promote Circular Economy (3%). By promoting competition in essential markets for climate action (e.g., renewable energy, batteries, climate resilient seeds), governments and competition authorities can encourage companies to invest in sustainable solutions and which can ultimately help to reduce environmental damage and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Competition advocacy can take various forms, from identifying and removing regulatory barriers to entry in green markets, to developing guidelines to limit competition distortions of green transition measures or embed competition principles in green industrial policies.
Competition agencies, sector regulators and other government bodies and non-governmental organizations promoting competition policy are welcome to apply.
If you are not a member of the ICN, you should reach out to the ICN member in your jurisdiction to inform about your intention to participate in the contest. A list of all ICN members is available here. Joint submissions from ICN members and government bodies or non-governmental organizations are encouraged.
In order to participate, candidates must complete the online survey. Key information required to apply includes:
information below will be used for blind review. While answering, don’t identify your institution or jurisdiction. Please use generic words like "legislation", "agency", "region" or "country" to avoid identification.
A summary of the advocacy initiative. Please include information covering (i) socioeconomic relevance of the intervention, (ii) the issue tackled by the initiative, (iii) the solution proposed/implemented and/or (iv) impact when available. (150 words)
The competition issue under assessment. (150 words)
The strategy used to address the issue. It can include, for instance, communication strategy, stakeholders involved, resources allocated, evidence building. (150 words)
The main messages and recommendations conveyed by the advocacy activity. (150 words)
Collaboration with other agencies/organization and stakeholders. (150 words)
The results of the initiative. For example: (i) recommendations were implemented by public bodies, (ii) opinions were published or disseminated, (iii) other immediate changes generated by the initiative. (150 words)
Information whether the initiative (i) is inspired by initiatives of other jurisdictions, (ii) is inspired by other initiatives in your jurisdiction, or (iii) inspired other initiatives locally or abroad. Please provide brief information on other initiatives if applicable.
Effective or expected socioeconomic impacts. For instance, level of consumer savings, investment, value added, entry of new firms, others. (150 words)
Lessons learned with the initiative. (150 words)
Stories submitted to previous editions of the contest that were not awarded are eligible for resubmission.
The online survey is the only valid application method. Applications through email messages or that fail to provide the required information in compliance with indicated character limits and blind review standards will not be considered.
Please contact Alex Ciborowska with any questions at email@example.com.
The deadline for submissions is July 14, 2023 (11h59 pm, Washington D.C. time).
Submissions will undergo a rigorous assessment of the following criteria:
- Relevance of the competition issue tackled by the initiative;
- Success of the advocacy activity - results achieved;
- Impact and effects on markets, spillover effects and lessons learned;
- Advocacy strategy - creativity and originality, cooperation mechanisms deployed.
An independent panel will review the submissions and select the top stories. Winning applicants will be invited to present their stories at a joint ICN-World Bank Group event.
Winners and honorable mentions will be announced in advance of the 2023 ICN Annual Conference.