Since the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously the Set of Multilaterally Agreed Equitable Principles and Rules for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices in December 1980, (GA, Resolution 35/63) the challenges and opportunities experienced by developing countries have been radically transformed by globalisation and the liberalisation of international trade and investment.
The United Nations Set is to date the only multilateral instrument on competition policy. It provides a set of equitable rules for the control of anti-competitive practices, recognises the development dimension of competition law and policy, provides a framework for international cooperation and exchange of best practices in this area, including the provision of technical assistance and capacity building for interested member countries.
The Sixth UN Conference to Review All Aspects of the Set offers the opportunity to address some of the problems arising from monopolisation, hard core cartels, abuses of dominance and anti-competitive mega-mergers, and defines the types of national and international measures needed to ensure that anti-competitive practices do not impede or negate the realisation of benefits that should arise from the liberalisation of trade and investment in developing countries.
In many developing countries open trade regimes and financial markets alone have not lived up to expectations in terms of promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction.
Much more attention needs to be given to the detrimental effects of anti-competitive practices on the functioning of markets, the process of privatisation, the creation of a dynamic enterprise sector as well as the interface between foreign direct investment, international trade and competitiveness. Furthermore, during a financial crisis , countries may be tempted to suspend competition principles, adopt protectionist trade measures, revive interventionist industrial policies and seek exemptions from competition policy in order to dispense state aid on a large scale to industries in need. The pursuit of national interests, in the short-run, risks negating the benefits from competition for global, regional and national development in the long-run. UNCTAD maintains that competition is the main driver for building competitiveness, innovation, technological advancement and economic development in the long-run and that the promotion of competition should remain as a policy tool, irrespective of a country's position in the business cycle.