ACCC joins the fight to end collusion in international trade

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A NEW task force of five competition authorities, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is bolstering global efforts to prevent collusion in international trade.

The ACCC joined the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Canadian Competition Bureau; the New Zealand Commerce Commission; and the UK Competition and Markets Authority to prevent anti-competitive behavior from occurring in the supply and distribution of goods.

The working group complements several existing cooperation agreements between competition authorities in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

Five Eyes competition authority partnerships are designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of competition investigations in multiple jurisdictions.

Focusing on illegal behavior in global supply chains, the new task force is responding to pandemic-induced disruptions that have led to increased freight rates.

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ACCC President Rod Sims said the international partnership was necessitated by the global nature of the supply chain network, which spans many jurisdictions.

As such, the detection of anti-competitive behavior requires international cooperation.

“COVID-19 has caused the supply chain disruptions the world is currently experiencing, but the purpose of this task force is to detect any attempt by companies to use these conditions as a cover to work together and set prices” , said Mr. Sims.

“We will share intelligence to identify any behavior that restricts or distorts competition, and businesses are now on notice that the ACCC and its international counterparts will be ready to act.”

Mr Sims said the disruptions are attributed to increased demand for containerized freight and severe congestion in the global supply chain.

He said freight rates on major global trade routes are now about seven times higher than two years ago as goods become increasingly expensive for consumers.

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

Monitoring anti-competitive behavior, the group will monitor cartels and other activities that have a significant impact on competition, such as exclusionary agreements by companies with significant market power.

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