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Antitrust and Competition Law in Asia

February 22, 2011

2010 saw a major advance in the implementation of anti-trust and competition regulation throughout Asia.

In a region traditionally renowned for extensive joint venturees, cartels and other collaborative relationships, the speed and extent of the swing towards more open and competitive relationships has been dramatic. Hungry for economic aid, inward investment and global competitiveness, traditional business structures have been crumbling at remarkable speed.

This has a number of major impacts – not least of which is the growing importance of contracts and more rigorous commercial management. As business-to-busness relationships become┬áincreasingly arm’s length, they demand fresh approaches to their negotiation and management. This is fuelling, among other things, a growth in demand for skills development and training for commercial, contracts and procurement staff.

Among those introducing new competition laws in 2010 were Hong Kong and Malaysia. Every jurisdction in East Asia – wth the exception of North Korea and Myanmar – now has antitrust regulations in place, or has committed to their introduction. This has already started to have big effects not only on local companies, but also on multi-nationals. For example, Japan, China and Korea joined the EU in objecting to the proposed merger between BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

While enforcement standards still vary, fines in the region totalled $1.5 billion last year, indcating a new level of seriousness by many governments. A continuing challenge for companies operating in the region is the variability in the extent and quality of guidance. However, the overall strengthening of legislation in this area is another key milestone in the regon’s competitiveness on the world stage.

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