01 October 2015

European Commissioner for Competition on global co-operation between authorities in merger control

On 24 September 2015, Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, gave a speech at the 11th International Competition Network (ICN) Merger Working Group Workshop (ICN Workshop) in which she emphasised the importance of continuing international co-operation on merger control and commended the legacy of the EU Merger Regulation (Merger Regulation).

The Commissioner recognised that, since the Merger Regulation first came into force 25 years ago, we now live in a world where 85% of the world’s population live in a place with some form of competition policy enforcement.

Ms Vestager noted that the requirement for multi-jurisdictional clearance will become increasingly common and co-operation between regulators will be even more integral to the success of international business.  Competition authorities must therefore have procedural and substantive rules which are compatible with each other.  At present, the Commission is co-operating with non-EU agencies in more than half of all cases that involve remedies or Phase II Review.

To illustrate this, the Commissioner drew on two recent examples.  First, she outlined how the acquisition of Alstom by General Electric saw the Commission and the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) work closely together and produce aligned remedies to both EU and US concerns on the dominance of the combined entities in the gas turbine industry.  The Commission and the DoJ cleared the deal on the same day.  Secondly, she explained how the acquisition of Novartis' oncology and vaccines business by GlaxoSmithKline saw co-operation between competition authorities in Canada, China, Australia, Brazil, Pakistan, the US and the EU and how, despite some “difference in the substantive assessment”, the regulators concerned managed to find “compatible and non-conflicting remedies” through the divestment of certain medicinal assets to other entities.

Commissioner Vestager's speech provides a clear indication that the Commission recognises the importance of co-operation and “inter-operability” with other competition authorities on the issue of international merger clearance and that meaningful steps are being taken by members of the ICN to “make future co-operation even more effective and seamless.” 

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