Five Eyes competition authorities to focus on collusion in international trade

ACCC

Global efforts to prevent anti-competitive conduct from occurring in the supply and distribution of goods will be boosted by a new working group announced today between the ACCC, US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Canadian Competition Bureau, NZ Commerce Commission, and UK Competition and Markets Authority.

The five competition authorities will focus on illegal conduct, including collusion, in global supply chains, in light of the pandemic-induced disruptions that have led to much higher freight rates and more expensive goods for consumers.

“The global freight supply chain is a complex network involving many jurisdictions, so naturally detecting anti-competitive conduct requires strong international partnerships,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“COVID-19 has caused the supply chain disruptions the world is currently experiencing, but the purpose of this working group is to detect any attempts by businesses to use these conditions as a cover to work together and fix prices.”

“We will be sharing intelligence to identify any behaviour that restricts or distorts competition, and companies are now on notice that the ACCC and its international counterparts will be ready to act,” Mr Sims said.

Increased demand for containerised cargo and heavy congestion across the global supply chain have caused disruptions and delays to most parts of the economy, from agriculture to health care.

Freight rates on key global trade routes are currently about seven times higher than they were two years ago.

“Australia is an open, trade-exposed economy, and like the other international agencies in this working group, we have a very strong interest in preserving strong competitive markets for global trade,” Mr Sims said.

Types of anti-competitive conduct the working group will be watching for include cartels and any other activities that materially impact competition, such as exclusionary arrangements by firms with market power.

Background

This new working group complements a number of existing formal and informal cooperation agreements with competition agencies in the US, UK, Canada and NZ, designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of competition investigations that span multiple jurisdictions.

In April 2019, the ACCC signed a cooperation agreement with the FBI to combat cartels and other anti-competitive behaviour.

In September 2020, the Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities (MMAC) was established by the US Department of Justice, US Federal Trade Commission, the UK Competition and Markets Authority, the New Zealand Commerce Commission, the Competition Bureau Canada, and the ACCC.

The nations of the Five Eyes alliance have separate intelligence sharing arrangements between security agencies.

Further information is available at ACCC treaties and agreements.

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