New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) here today organised the Sixth National Conference on Economics of Competition Law through virtual mode. Shri N. K. Singh, Chairman, Fifteenth Finance Commission was the Keynote Speaker at the Conference. Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta, Chairperson, CCI, delivered the Special Address at the Inaugural Session and Dr. Sangeeta Verma, Member, CCI opened the Conference with her opening remarks.
In his keynote address, Mr N.K. Singh referred to the pandemic and how it necessitated the fast-tracking of many features of economic reforms in India, which were long overdue. The disinvestment and privatisation programme, he said, would free valuable financial resources, creating fiscal space for the government for its priority capital expenditure both physical and social infrastructure while also generating enhanced competition. Competitive markets and democratic governments, he said, were complementary and needed to interact in a manner that maximised the larger public interest. Competition policy is critical for economic framework as markets are imperfect, Shri Singh added.
Regulations are needed to overcome market imperfections and also to control unbridled competition and in this context, Shri Singh underlined the role of regulators and the need for building capacity to remain ahead of the changes in markets. In this context, Shri Singh highlighted the challenges that multiplicity of regulators may give rise to and suggested possible mechanisms and organisational forms that could ensure a harmonious and coordinated regulatory response to market infirmities. Shri Singh emphasised that interaction between sectoral regulator and competition authority was vital and a common platform could be created for formal and informal exchanges, training and referrals.
In the Special Address, Shri Ashok Kumar Gupta emphasised that for markets to become an instrument of growth, it was imperative that markets were well functioning, undergirded by healthy competition. Alluding to the Commission’s dynamic and economics-based approach to antitrust enforcement, Shri Gupta said that economic analysis of evidence guaranteed that that anti-competitive behaviour did not outwit legal provisions. Drawing attention to the Commission’s focus areas besides enforcement, Shri Gupta mentioned the emphasis that the Commission is placing on market studies, which have the element of stakeholder engagement prominently embedded in them. In this context, the Chairperson discussed the CCI’s market studies on telecom sector, pharmaceutical sector and the issue of common ownership. The Chairperson mentioned the State Resource Person Scheme initiated by the Commission to train State and PSU procurement officials and equip them with competitive tender design tools and competition assessment of bids and tender outcomes. Chairperson announced the Journal on Competition Law and Policy that the CCI is bringing out to stimulate research and scholarship on competition law and policy, the first issue of which is slated to be released soon.
In her opening remarks, Dr Sangeeta Verma highlighted the rapidly changing markets with increasing digital intermediation and the challenges these developments pose for antitrust assessment. Dr Verma stressed that in order to ensure efficient harnessing of new technologies, there was a need for robust antitrust enforcement. In this backdrop, Dr Verma highlighted some key points for debate and discussion such as the need for new competition tools, ex ante regulation to complement ex post antitrust and the trade-offs that policy or regulatory design would have to balance to deal with challenges in the digital space.
In addition to the Inaugural Session, the Conference had two technical sessions on Antitrust Toolkit for Platform Markets; and Assessment of Market Power: Approaches and Challenges where researchers presented papers on economics of competition law. Each session had three papers. The first session had papers dealing with specific issues in digital markets whereas the second session discussed methods for empirical assessment of market power in different sectors.
The Conference had a Plenary on ‘Policy Design in Digital Markets’ Harnessing Technology for Economic Development which was moderated by Dr. Arghya Sengupta, Founder and Research Director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. The Plenary had a distinguished panel that included Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), Government of India; Dr R.S. Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, National Health Authority, Shri Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman, Axilor Ventures, Co-founder, Infosys; Dr. V. Sridhar, Professor, Centre for IT and Public Policy, IIIT Bangalore; Dr. Mike Walker, Chief Economic Advisor, UK Competition and Markets Authority; Dr. Pierre Régibeau, Chief Economist, DG Comp; and Dr. Cristina Caffarra, Vice President, Head of European Competition Practice, Charles River Associate.