The 2015 Annual Meeting of the International Competition Network (ICN) concluded today in Sydney. The event was hosted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and is the key event on the global competition calendar.

The event was attended by more than 400 international delegates from over 70 countries, including staff from competition agencies, academics, and legal and economic representatives.

The program covered a range of important and topical competition issues including how to regulate unilateral conduct without stifling innovation, how international cooperation can improve merger review and cartel enforcement, and how competition agencies should contribute as advocates for competition.

“As cross-border trade increases, competition agencies need to work together to build and share sound principles,” ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, said.

“The annual meeting has provided a valuable opportunity to strengthen relationships that form the basis for continued cooperation, which is vital for effective enforcement of national competition laws. It is also good for business as it facilitates regulatory timelines and consistency.”

The conference had a strong connection to the digital economy, focussing on the tools competition regulators can use to deal with current and emerging issues. The ACCC prepared a report on the issues of restraints on competition in online trade, and the economic damage it can result in was discussed at length.

“It was agreed that the digital economy was a priority area for international competition agencies and international cooperation,” Mr Sims said.

“Hosting the annual meeting at this time was particularly appropriate as ASEAN member states have committed to implement competition policy by the end of 2015.”

A key highlight was the signing of a cooperation arrangement between the ACCC and the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC). This agreement builds on the Japan-Australia Economic partnership Agreement, which commenced on 15 January 2015, and paves the way for increased cooperation and investigative assistance between the ACCC and the JFTC on competition matters affecting Australian or Japanese markets.

The ICN is a network of international competition law enforcement agencies. There are currently 130 member agencies from 115 jurisdictions.

The ACCC’s participation in the ICN has delivered many benefits, including a cartel immunity policy which has led to penalties and damages for cartel victims totalling more than $250 million, improved investigation methods and greater international cooperation for dealing with a range of anti-competitive practices.