Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno today signed an antitrust cooperation agreement between the United States and Japan. The agreement was signed for Japan by Hideaki Kobayashi, the Charge d'Affaires ad interim of Japan, who was accompanied by Yasuchika Negoro, Chairman of the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC).
Pitofsky said that the agreement will allow the two countries to strengthen enforcement cooperation in antitrust and that it builds on the long-standing relationship between U.S. antitrust authorities and those of Japan, which date back to the enactment of Japan's Antimonopoly Law in 1947. The FTC and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice have held annual antitrust consultations with the JFTC since 1976, the longest-running of the United States' bilateral consultations with foreign antitrust authorities.
"The United States and Japan are the world's two largest national economies, each nation is a major trading partner of the other," Chairman Pitofsky noted. "Perhaps even more importantly, we both recognize we face an increasingly more integrated world economy. This agreement between our two countries reflects both that reality and the cooperative relationship that has come to exist between antitrust enforcement agencies in the United States and Japan."
The new agreement is similar to antitrust cooperation agreements the United States has signed with the European Union, Canada, and Israel. It includes provisions for notification about antitrust enforcement activities, enforcement cooperation and coordination, conflict avoidance and consultations, positive comity, and confidentiality and use limitations. Pitofsky noted that these provisions will enable us to work together to improve antitrust enforcement in both countries.
Highlights of the new agreement include:
- Agreement on the Importance of Cooperation: The parties acknowledge the importance of antitrust cooperation in enhancing enforcement of each party's competition laws, and that the sound and effective enforcement of competition law is important both for the efficient functioning of each market and to trade between the United States and Japan.
- Notification of Enforcement Activities: Each antitrust agency will notify the other of antitrust enforcement activities that may affect the other's important interests.
- Enforcement Cooperation and Coordination: The antitrust agencies agree to provide assistance to each other in antitrust enforcement activities and to consider coordination of investigations involving both the U.S. and Japanese markets. In any coordinated arrangement, they will seek to conduct their activities consistently with the other party's enforcement interests.
- Positive Comity: The antitrust agencies also agree to a "positive comity" provision whereby each antitrust agency would give careful consideration to a request by the other to take antitrust enforcement action against illegal behavior occurring within its jurisdiction that injures the other party's interests.
- Conflict Avoidance: The parties agree to consider carefully one another's interests in carrying out enforcement activities, and the agreement includes a non-exhaustive list of factors to be considered in this regard.
- Consultations and Exchange of Information: The antitrust agencies, and the parties, agree to consult with each other on matters that arise under the agreement. The parties agree to exchange antitrust-related information, within applicable confidentiality constraints.
- Existing Laws: The parties recognize that the agreement will be implemented in accordance with existing laws in each country.
The agreement does not change existing law in either country, and does not permit the sharing of non-public information or evidence obtained in the course of a law enforcement investigation. The agreement applies to antitrust, as opposed to the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection work. However, it is not an antitrust mutual legal assistance agreement of the sort authorized by the International Antitrust Assistance Act of 1994 that the United States signed with Australia earlier this year.
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