The International Competition Network held its 19th annual conference on Sept. 14-17, 2020. Co-hosted by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, this was the ICN’s first virtual conference.
“In these challenging times, it has been uplifting to see the strong commitment of the global competition community to reaffirming the central importance of competition policy to growth, innovation, and economic recovery,” said FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons. “The FTC is proud to have co-hosted the ICN’s 19th annual conference and looks forward to working with our colleagues around the world to meet the challenges of the digital economy and ensure competitive markets that serve consumers.”
“Global engagement through ICN is essential to our work in preserving market competition in the United States. We are proud to have co-hosted this year’s ICN conference and to have had conversations on issues of great national importance, such as the role of antitrust policy and enforcement in the digital economy, made available to the public,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.
Originally planned as an in-person conference in Los Angeles in May, the conference was held virtually instead as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. FTC Chairman Simons and Assistant Attorney General Delrahim led the U.S. delegation.
The conference examined a range of competition enforcement and policy issues, including those involving the digital economy. More than 2500 delegates from around the world participated in the conference, including agency leadership and staff, as well as competition experts from international organizations and the legal, business, and academic communities.
Chairman Simons and Assistant Attorney General Delrahim opened the conference and participated in a showcase program that explored competition enforcement in the digital economy, including enforcement tools and international cooperation.
During the conference, the ICN working groups on cartels, unilateral conduct, advocacy, mergers, and agency effectiveness highlighted achievements and developments with respect to their projects.
Commissioner Christine Wilson spoke on a panel on the objectives, design, and implementation of remedies in unilateral conduct cases involving digital markets. The Unilateral Conduct Working Group produced a report detailing the results of an ICN survey on dominance and substantial market power in digital markets.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers spoke on a panel discussing big data and cartelization inspired by a scoping paper finalized this year by the Cartel Working Group. Under the Antitrust Division’s leadership, the group also finalized guidance on enhancing cross-border leniency cooperation.
The Advocacy Working Group held a panel on competition advocacy in the digital age. The group also issued a report on providing input to policymakers on the competitive impact of government regulations.
The Merger Working Group organized a panel on merger investigations in the digital sector that addressed the characteristics of digital mergers, theories of harm, remedies, and the scope for international cooperation. The group also issued a report on agency experiences with conglomerate mergers and work exploring the impact of procedural infringements by parties during merger investigations.
The Agency Effectiveness Working Group’s panel focused on competition agencies’ strategies to address the challenges of the digital economy. The group also has led the ICN’s efforts, since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, to share operational experiences and information on member agencies’ adaptation policies.
The ICN Steering Group has begun exploring the issues related to competition enforcement and advocacy pertaining to the intersection between competition, consumer protection, and data privacy law and policy, a project initiated by the FTC.
The ICN unveiled its plan to conduct a comprehensive “Third Decade” organizational review, co-led by the FTC, of the ICN’s substantive coverage, tools, and operational framework, with a view to preparing for future developments and challenges as the ICN enters its third decade in 2021.
A recording of the conference will be available on the ICN conference webpage after the close of the conference.
Supplemental annual conference programming will be held throughout the fall, including additional sessions organized by each of the ICN’s five Working Groups. The Antitrust Division, together with its co-chairs, will also lead a session for participants in the ICN Framework on Competition Agency Procedures, or CAP.
The ICN was created in October 2001 to increase understanding of competition policy and promote convergence toward sound antitrust enforcement around the world. It was founded by 15 agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and Antitrust Division, and has grown to 140 agencies from 129 jurisdictions, supported by a wide network of non-government advisors from around the world.