Recently, President Obama issued a call to all executive departments and agencies “to promote competition, arm consumers and workers with the information they need to make informed choices, and eliminate regulations that restrict competition without corresponding benefits to the American public.” We here at the Federal Trade Commission are uniquely positioned to help in this effort.
President Obama’s Executive Order starts from the basic principles that underlie our nation’s antitrust laws:
“[m]aintaining, encouraging, and supporting a fair, efficient, and competitive marketplace is a cornerstone of the American economy” because competitive markets help advance national priorities, promote economic growth, and encourage innovation. The Federal Trade Commission has a long history of challenging anticompetitive conduct – as does our fellow antitrust enforcer, the U.S. Department of Justice – and the Order acknowledged our “proven record of detecting and stopping anticompetitive conduct and challenging mergers and acquisitions that threaten to consolidate markets and reduce competition.”
To help make these principles a reality throughout our economy, within the next two months, the President has asked agencies to recommend specific actions to detect and address anticompetitive conduct, identify undue regulatory burdens on competition, and otherwise promote greater competition.
Followers of the FTC’s work will recognize that this aspect of the Order echoes core themes of our successful competition advocacy program. Through both formal written comments and informal agency-to-agency relationships, we encourage legislators, sector regulators, and other policymakers to integrate competition principles into their decisionmaking processes so that laws, rules, and policies incorporate competition principles to advance the interests of consumers and citizens. (And, internationally, we also have recommended this approach to other competition jurisdictions that seek to strengthen their own competition advocacy programs.)
To our sister agencies that might be wondering where to start, the FTC’s competition advocacy comments may provide some useful insights. Since 2014, for example, we have filed comments with a number of federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, Patent and Trademark Office, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Department of Labor, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A common theme of these comments is to urge policymakers to evaluate how their proposals may affect competition and consumers, and to consider whether they can fulfill other important and legitimate public policy goals without unnecessarily restricting competition.
We share this message in less formal ways too. FTC staff have developed close and respectful working relationships with colleagues at numerous agencies, over many years and multiple Administrations. As a result, staff at other agencies often seek our input and advice regarding the potential competitive implications of policy and rulemaking proposals still under development. We also arrange staff-level “details” to and from other agencies, which help us collaborate to solve complex policy problems while promoting competition to the greatest extent possible.
The FTC stands ready to help our fellow agencies and we look forward to working across government to make America’s economy even more competitive and innovative.