Thursday , June 24 2021

Paris in the campaign for the reform of competition law

Taking advantage of the meeting of the EU's 28 EU finance ministers in Brussels, Bruno Le Mour has unveiled three proposals that he considers essential to counteract Chinese and US competition. An initiative that obviously dislikes the European Commission. "I'm not sure (…) that our competition policy is hindering the growth of European companies," said Vice President Jury Katanaen. Former Finnish Prime Minister warns against a short-sighted strategy that "will lead to rising prices and worsening the quality of services and products" at a press conference in the European Parliament in Strasbourg,
Together with the German finance minister, Social Democrat Olaf Scholt, who disapproves of his proposals, the Mayor said he would discuss the path ahead with the Christian Democrat Peter Altmayer, his German economic partner. This close to Chancellor Angela Merkel, an avid advocate of the Siemens / Alstom merger mayor, pledged a joint French-German initiative to adapt European competition law in the 21st century, which he considers to be outdated.

"State veto"

Mr May has first proposed to "introduce a right of wake-up which will allow the Council (representing the 28 EU Member States) to challenge a European Commission's competition decision" a kind of right of appeal. In Germany, this "recalling power", a mechanism for challenging a decision by the National Authority for the Protection of Competition, was used by the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to allow the acquisition of the Ehr Elektrotechnika of the Ruhrgas gas company in 2003. Asked about the mayor's proposal, Mr Scholz was cautious about the issue of "more complex" at European level.
In France, Mr Le Maire used this right in July 2018, insisting that the acquisition by the financial company Cofigeo of part of the group of Agriopole, the owner of the food brand William Saurin, without transferring activities (contrary to the request of the authority competition).
In the European State Aid Law (which the Commission may authorize or prohibit in the name of competition), such a veto option already exists, but it has to be adopted unanimously by the 28 Member States of the Council and so far has never been used .

"Arsenal repressive" against the Chinese

The Mayor's second proposal, the opportunity to make it easier for the Commission to merge the green light to ask companies to offer further discounts if necessary later. This kind of successor right is part of the current thinking at both national and European level, but a European expert told AFP, stressing that this would put two issues: legal uncertainty for merging companies and a possible lack of human resources for monitoring of subsequent conciliation.
Finally, the French Minister's third proposal: to take the world market as a reference, and not just the European market. "Whatever the future of these reform proposals, the real problem we have with China is not a concentration issue," says Jacques Lafite, Avisa consulting firm in Brussels.
For him, "a repressive arsenal should be introduced" against Chinese companies that do not follow the same rules as European ones, receiving in particular Chinese state aid, while these subsidies are strongly shaped in the single market.

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