Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy J. Muris told a gathering of corporate general counsel today that although there are some significant differences between the substantive approaches of the United States and the European Union (EU) in the enforcement of their antitrust laws, it is important to keep the impact of these differences in perspective. Speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C. of the American Bar Association's Section of Business Law, Muris said the differences "are too great to sweep under the rug, but not so great as to jeopardize either most Trans-Atlantic business activity or Trans-Atlantic antitrust cooperation."
Muris noted that the FTC and the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division have developed a close working relationship with their counterparts at the European Commission (EC), and that this cooperation has resulted in significant convergence in analytical approaches to cases of mutual concern. However, Muris explained, it is not surprising that there are some areas in which the approaches of U.S. antitrust agencies and the EC diverge.
Referring to the recent decisions by DOJ and the EC in the proposed merger of General Electric Co. and Honeywell International, Inc., Muris said he did not believe that the differences in results reached were due to European discrimination against U.S. firms or the application of industrial policy. Rather, he attributed the differences to divergent views on issues such as the competitive effects of "bundling" products and on the application of theories of market foreclosure. Muris said that in contrast to the U.S. approach, the EC appears to have emphasized the possibility of long-term harm over the near-term efficiencies and consumer benefits that the transaction likely would have produced. Nonetheless, Muris said that cases like General Electric/Honeywell "are likely to be the exception and not the norm."
Looking ahead, Muris expressed confidence that continuing cooperation with the European Union, including through the Mergers Working Group and the recently launched International Competition Network, will lead to a narrowing of the remaining areas of difference. He concluded that "while the outcome of our policy reviews cannot be predicted at this point, we remain committed to the goal of our cooperation agreement - 'to lessen the possibility or impact of the differences between [us] in the application of [our] competition laws.'"
The FTC's Bureau of Competition seeks to prevent business practices that restrain competition. The Bureau carries out its mission by investigating alleged law violations and, when appropriate, recommending that the Commission take formal enforcement action. To notify the Bureau concerning particular business practices, call or write the Office of Policy and Evaluation, Room 394, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580, Electronic Mail: email@example.com; Telephone (202) 326-3300. For more information on the laws that the Bureau enforces, the Commission has published "Promoting Competition, Protecting Consumers: A Plain English Guide to Antitrust Laws," which can be accessed at http://www.ftc.gov/bc/compguide/index.htm.