The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) organised a seminar to celebrate the World Competition Day, which was attended in large number by the government officials, regulatory organisations and representatives of business community, trade associations, legal community, academia and media.

Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Ishaq Dar was the chief guest at the seminar. Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, Ambassador of EU delegation to Pakistan attended the opening session of the seminar.

Addressing the seminar, Senator Ishaq Dar said that competition results in lower prices and more choices for consumers; it fosters innovation, promotes entrepreneurship and helps prepare domestic firms for international competition. He added that he was impressed by the progress the CCP has made in creating a pro-competition environment in the country.

“Competition also sends a positive signal to foreign investors. When foreign investors observe that the government is serious in implementing the competition regime i.e. it will not be providing domestic entities with preferential treatment over others they will be confident in investing in Pakistan, the Minister said adding that the CCP had the support of the Government in the discharge of its statutory obligations. He also congratulated the CCP for organising the seminar.

Earlier while addressing the seminar Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, stated that Pakistan has a competition agency that it can be proud of. He said that for the Competition law to be effectively enforced it requires a strong Competition Commission. He was of the view that Pakistan should get rid of discriminatory SROs. He said that under the CCP had an able leadership which was working towards tackling distortions in the market.

Dr. Joseph Wilson, Chairman, CCP while addressing the audience stated the purpose of the seminar was to create awareness of  competition law and enforcement issues. He stated that the promulgation of competition law in Pakistan, among other reasons, is the fulfillment of UN Resolutions35/63 of the 5th December 1980.

Dr. Joseph informed the audience that the current challenging economic conditions ensuring competitive markets and a level playing field for national and international players is extremely important to attract investment. He said that the Competition Act of Pakistan did envisage that combating private restraint in the market is not sufficient and that it is extremely important to review the effects of government regulations and actions. Therefore, in addition to the substantive enforcement provisions the Competition Law mandates the Commission to do competition advocacy.

The theme of the first session was “Unfair trade practices and loss to consumer welfare”. Khalid Mirza, former Chairman CCP, while addressing the session stated that Competition is the most significant charter, manga carta so to speak for the protection of consumers. Ms. Syma Ahmed, Assistant Professor, FC College University in her presentation talked about dark practices whereby companies use tricks to psychologically lead consumers into believing what is not in the best interest of consumers.

Saad Amanullah Khan, former CEO Gillette observed that strong institutions are like regulators, guardians like parents who need to discipline children. There should be open competition and a check on anti-competitive practices that lead to a dominant position. Dr. Shahzad Ansar, CCP Member threw light on the new initiative of CCP in the areas dealing with the Office of Fair Trading.

The second session was on the theme of “Public Restraints and its impact on Competition”. The debate focused on how regulatory barriers such as tax and duty exemptions were hampering competition. Dr Syed Ismail Shah, Chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, gave the example of the telecom sector as a success story. He noted that there was modest growth in the telecom sector in the pre-deregulation period. He said that PTA’s approach has always been to promote Competition in the telecom sector and competition in the telecom sector has increased after deregulation.

Dr. Tariq Hassan, Advocate and former Chairman SECP noted that there were two types of restraints: public sector restraints and private sector restraints. He observed that the Competition Act, 2010 focuses only on private sector restraints.  Trade barriers, regulatory barriers, state-owned or state-sanctioned monopolies all represent public barriers to trade and commerce.

Dr. Manzoor Ahmad Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the WTO said that some industries have strong lobby power so they lobby for higher tariffs which reduce competition.

Mueen Batlay, Member CCP, said that CCP wants to ensure the audience that all restraints, private or public, which hurt competition have our attention. CCP has vast powers, and it is up to it to develop a competition policy and to ensure that the government policy is in line with competition policy.