Competition is a key driver of national growth, innovation and productivity. Well-enforced competition policies can build and maintain efficient markets and reduce poverty and social inequalities. Today in Muscat, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) kicked off the 3rd Arab Competition Forum in partnership with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion of the Sultanate of Oman, the League of Arab States (LAS), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the International Trade Center (ITC).
The opening session featured statements by Rola Dashti, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCWA, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of LAS, and Qais Mohammed Moosa Al Yousef, Omani Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion.
In her remarks, Dashti said the forum aimed to promote competition policies and legislations in the Arab region. “Competition can increase gross domestic product at a rate of 2 to 3% annually, create thousands of job opportunities, prepare markets to attract local and foreign investment, enhance innovation, and improve the welfare of consumers and society,” she added.
In fact, small and medium enterprises account for over 90% of all businesses in the Arab region. Competition law and policy play an essential role in supporting their resilience and performance in the market.
Competition policy is one of the most important tools for Governments to promote inclusive economic growth. It also increases production efficiency, especially after the rapid growth of the digital economy spurred by the COVID-19 crisis and the rise of new challenges for economic resilience, which only innovative policies can tackle.
The Forum brings together high-level representatives from member States, as well as delegates from ministries and competition authorities. Experts, academics, and other private sector professionals are also attending the event. Discussions will revolve around the latest developments, reforms and measures taken in this area during the pandemic and beyond. Sessions will tackle competition in online markets, the links between competition and economic policies, the role of competition law and policy in supporting small and medium enterprises, and competition provisions in trade agreements among other topics.
For his part, Aboul Gheit highlighted the repercussions of crises on the supply of basic commodities, due to increased speculation and the disruption of supply chains – factors which test the ability of Governments to prevent monopolistic practices and speculative activities. He also noted the importance of strengthening competition in online markets with the rise of e-commerce, through proper implementation and enforcement of legislations and competition laws in the Arab region.
Although 20 Arab States have passed competition laws and competition authorities exist in 18 countries, enforcement is still weak – which affects market performance, as many countries still face legislative and institutional challenges.
“This Forum is an opportunity for the Arab region to effectively move forward in improving competition performance and in preventing monopoly, especially during the COVID-19 recovery phase where competition for opportunities is high”, Al Yousef said. “The Sultanate puts competition and monopoly prevention at the core of its economic and commercial work, as embodied in the Oman 2040 vision,” he added.
The Forum seeks to strengthen cooperation and coordination between competition authorities in ESCWA member States. It is an annual regional platform on competition law and policy to build capacity and share knowledge, experiences and best relevant practices.