Friday, March 14, 2008

India to host international conference on competition law

The International Bar Association (IBA) and the Bar Association of India (BAI), with active support from the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), have organized a two-day, international conference on "India's New Merger Notification Regime" on March 15, 16 at the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi.

Due to the global ramifications of the new competition law, senior officials from counterparts of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) from the US, the UK, European Union, Australia, Canada and other countries will also participate in the conference. Special Working Groups had been set up by IBA, ABA, FICCI and CII to study and examine certain provisions of the Competition Act, 2002 (as amended in 2007) and the draft Regulations (2008) as formulated by the CCI. Reports of these Working Groups have been submitted to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and to the CCI.The brief summary of the reports of the Special Working Groups is as under: (i) The Act in its present form, in some potential applications may be so burdensome as to discourage competitive conduct and investment.(ii) The Regulations to be framed under the Act - pertaining to merger notifications can ameliorate some of these counter productive aspects of the Act such as:(a) Transactions which have no or de minimis (minimum) connection with India. The Act would require notification of many transactions that have little likelihood of affecting competition in India in any material way.(b) The 210-day waiting period, especially for transactions having no or little local nexus and/or no or insignificant competitive impact in India. Such a long waiting period may deter many transactions that would otherwise be beneficial to India's economy. (c) The timing of notifications - the Act is both ambiguous and overly restrictive as to when notifications must be filed, in the latter case, potentially depriving parties of the opportunity to coordinate multiple notifications across different jurisdictions. These problems introduce administrative inefficiencies without providing any compensating benefit to the review process. (d) The burden of notification, especially for non-problematic transactions - a required initial "short form" notification, that includes only the data needed for the CCI to make a determination as to the need for further information and investigation, would greatly lessen the burden on both the CCI and the parties, facilitate expeditious clearance of non-problematic transactions, and further India's development of a state-of-the-art merger control regime. The reports recognize that the CCI has, since the original enactment of the Act in 2002, been active in ensuring its optimal implementation, including conducting nearly 50 advocacy and awareness-building programs and many market studies and research projects, drafting regulations and interpretation bulletins on competition and intellectual property issues, holding consultations with state governments, providing input and opinions on policy and regulatory proposals, and co-developing a curriculum for competition courses in law and economic programs.
The CCI has been vigorously advocating competition and drafting with other government departments and advisory groups a "National Competition Policy" for India. The reports support the Competition Commission's efforts to increase the effectiveness of India's competition law regime and to draft regulations that address the issues that will be discussed in the two-day conference.Confirmed participants at the conference include Vinod Dhall, Acting Chairman, CCI, Amitabh Kumar, Director General, CCI, and other experts from CCI, Lieutenant General S.S. Mehta, Director General of CII, eminent economists Thomas Hoehn from PricewaterhouseCoopers Europe and Tapan Bhaumik from Reliance Industries Ltd, and legal experts from overseas and from India. Hon'ble Justice Dr. A.S. Anand, former Chief Justice of India and Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, will give the inaugural address. The Conference is being Co-chaired by Lalit Bhasin, President, Society of Indian Law Firms and Honorary General Secretary, The Bar Association of India.

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