Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law

Article

The International Trading System and Market Distortions

Revisiting the Need for Competition Rules within the WTO

Keywords cross-border business activities, developing countries, multilateral competition rules, trade and competition, WTO
Authors Franziska Sucker
Author's information

364540 Franziska Sucker
Associate professor, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
  • Abstract

      As a result of the interconnectedness of the global economy, cross-border activities of economic operators are soaring. Their business practices are not governed by multilateral rules, but merely, if at all, by regional or national laws. As a result, they are potentially subject to over- or under-enforcement and -regulation or to conflicting rules. The resultant legal uncertainties and, therefore, potential lack of discipline for practices facilitates the development of dominant positions and anticompetitive behavior. This advances market distortions to the detriment of diverse offerings and the competitiveness of small market players, especially in economically weak developed countries. Such unfavorable developments could be reduced by preventing market concentration and disciplining anticompetitive behavior. I argue that multilateral rules alone would ensure that cross-border activities of economic operators are subject to uniform rules, irrespective of which country’s or region’s market is affected; and thus, provide legal certainty for current gaps. Moreover, in spite of the resistance of numerous countries to include competition disciplines within the World Trade Organization (WTO), rules aimed at dismantling barriers to trade created by private economic operators are not only theoretically desirable but indispensable in the long term to avoid an erosion of the WTO system by effectively replacing state-created barriers. The increasing role of supply chains and the rising volatility of international commodity prices should give all, albeit particularly the economically weak developed countries, reason to pause and revisit an issue that has significant implications for the competitiveness of their economic operators.

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