The International Competition Network (ICN) held its 19th annual conference on September 14-17, 2020. Co-hosted by the Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the conference was the ICN’s first virtual conference.
Originally planned as an in-person conference in Los Angeles in May, the conference transitioned to a virtual format as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division and FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons led the U.S. delegation.
“Global engagement through ICN is essential to our work in preserving market competition in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Delrahim. “We are proud to have co-hosted this year’s ICN conference and to have had conversations on issues of great national importance, such as the role of antitrust enforcement in the digital economy, made available to the public.”
“In these challenging times, it has been uplifting to see the strong commitment of the global competition community to reaffirming the central importance of competition policy to growth, innovation, and economic recovery,” said FTC Chairman Simons. “The FTC is proud to have co-hosted the ICN’s 19th annual conference and looks forward to working with our colleagues around the world to meet the challenges of the digital economy and ensure competitive markets that serve consumers.”
The conference examined a range of competition enforcement and policy issues, including those involving the digital economy. Over 2,500 delegates from around the world participated in the conference, including agency leadership and staff, as well as competition experts from international organizations and the legal, business and academic communities.
Assistant Attorney General Delrahim and Chairman Simons opened the conference and participated in a showcase program that explored competition enforcement in the digital economy, including enforcement tools and international cooperation.
During the conference, the ICN working groups on cartels, unilateral conduct, advocacy, mergers, and agency effectiveness highlighted achievements and developments with respect to their projects.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International and Policy, Rene Augustine, led the Division’s international team in the strategic development and implementation of the international conference.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers of the Antitrust Division spoke on a panel discussing big data and cartelization inspired by a scoping paper finalized this year by the Cartel Working Group. Under the Antitrust Division’s leadership, the group also finalized guidance on enhancing cross-border leniency cooperation.
FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson spoke on a panel on the objectives, design, and implementation of remedies in unilateral conduct s cases involving digital markets. The Unilateral Conduct Working Group produced a report detailing the results of an ICN survey on dominance and substantial market power in digital markets.
The Advocacy Working Group held a panel on competition advocacy in the digital age. The group also issued a report on providing input to policymakers on the competitive impact of government regulations.
The Merger Working Group organized a panel on merger investigations in the digital sector that addressed the characteristics of digital mergers, theories of harm, remedies, and the scope for international cooperation. The group also issued a report on agency experiences with conglomerate mergers and work exploring the impact of procedural infringements by parties during merger investigations.
The Agency Effectiveness Working Group’s panel focused on competition agencies’ strategies to address the challenges of the digital economy. The group also has led the ICN’s efforts since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic to share operational experiences and information on agencies’ adaptation policies.
The ICN Steering Group has also begun exploring the issues related to competition enforcement and advocacy pertaining to the intersection between competition, consumer protection, and data privacy law and policy, a project initiated by the FTC.
The ICN also unveiled its plan to conduct a comprehensive organizational review, co-led by the FTC, of the ICN’s substantive coverage, tools, and operational framework with a view to preparing for future developments and challenges as the ICN enters its third decade in 2021.
Recordings of the conference will be available on the ICN conference webpage after the close of the conference. Materials and recordings related to the Antitrust Division’s participation are available on the division’s International Program page
Supplemental annual conference programming will be held throughout the fall, including additional sessions organized by each of the ICN’s five Working Groups. The Antitrust Division, together with its co-chairs, will also lead a session for participants in the ICN Framework on Competition Agency Procedures (CAP).
The ICN was created in October 2001 to increase understanding of competition policy and promote convergence toward sound antitrust enforcement around the world. It was founded by 15 agencies including the Antitrust Division and the FTC, and has grown to 140 agencies from 129 jurisdictions, supported by a wide network of non-government advisors from around the world.