I’d like to propose a toast: Marking the 20th Anniversary of U.S.-EU Antitrust Cooperation

Sean Heather, Guido Lobrano, Oct 14, 2011

Anniversaries are marked by celebration, reflection, and renewals of commitment. On this occasion, the 20th anniversary of the agreement between the United States and the European Union regarding the application of their competition laws, (“Agreement”) the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and BUSINESSEUROPE would like to propose a toast. A toast to the visionaries that set the world’s two leading jurisdictions on a path to cooperation and coordination, to what has been accomplished in the last two decades, and to a rededication both to the work that remains bilaterally and the transatlantic leadership needed multilaterally.

The Agreement and the continuing agency dialogue that has developed within its framework have undoubtedly made positive contributions to the difficult process of navigating through the labyrinth of compliance issues arising from the scores of distinct state, national, and supranational antitrust enforcement systems originating in the United States and European Union. No one would suggest that such cooperation efforts have been anything less than productive; indeed, it is hard to envision a world in which the United States and European Union did not engage in a significant degree of consultation and information exchange on antitrust matters of mutual interest. The Agreement has made a measurable and lasting contribution to bilateral convergence and reducing costs and burdens.

While mindful of the valuable contributions cooperation has made, there remains a great deal of work to be done if antitrust enforcement is to be transparent, fair, predictable, reasonably stable over time, and grounded firmly in sound economic analysis. Business wants competition enforcers to be an integral and credible part of developing and sustaining market economies around the world. After all, business needs markets that function efficiently, and in a manner that is largely self-regulated and governed by competitive forces. Business favors enhancing innovation that results in the economic progress typical of highly innovative economies, while also advancing consumer, not producer, welfare.

The remaining points of convergence needed between U.S. and EU antitrust enforcement requires focused attention of senior policymakers and must be met with the same visionary leadership that launched us on the journey we now commemorate. Improvements in the coherence of transatlantic antitrust enforcement have become critical to convergence in global antitrust enforcement. Historical preoccupation over divergence between the United States and European Union is quickly giving way to recognition that there is a compelling and urgent need to develop new and more effective ways to address the rapidly increasing complexities arising from scores of additional antitrust enforcement systems that continue to emerge across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.