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Date: 
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The 7th East Asia Conference on Competition Law and Policy
Speech By The Hon. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Siti Norma Yaakob Chairman of The Malaysia Competition Commission
Date: 2 May 2012

WELCOME REMARKS BY THE HON. TAN SRI DATO’ SERI SITI NORMA YAAKOB
CHAIRMAN OF THE MALAYSIA COMPETITION COMMISSION

THE 7TH EAST ASIA TOP LEVEL OFFICIALS’ MEETING ON COMPETITION LAW AND POLICY
SHERATON IMPERIAL KUALA LUMPUR HOTEL
2 MAY 2012 (WEDNESDAY) 9.00 AM

Bismilla-hirrahma-nirrahim
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullah Hiwabarakatuh

Mr Kazuhiko Takeshima
Chairman of Japan Fair Trade Commission

Dr. Yuqing Xing
CBT Director of Asian Development Bank Institute

H. E. Ong Keng Yong, High Commission Republic of Singapore

Mr Lin Min Li, Deputy Representative Taipei Economic & Culture Office in Malaysia

Mr Shiow-Ming Wu
Chairman of Chinese Taipei Fair Trade Commission

Distinguished Members of the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC)

Participants from the East Asia Economies,

Participants from the various business sectors in Malaysia,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to all.

On behalf of the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC), I bid a warm welcome to all foreign participants to Kuala Lumpur and to all present this morning to The 7th East Asia Conference on Competition Law and Policy. This is the second time that Malaysia is hosting such an event, the last time being 2004 when we were the proud organisers of the 1st East Asia Conference on Competition Law and Policy. Back then, we were non existent and it was hosted by the then Ministry of Domestic Trade & Consumerism.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by congratulating the continuous effort by the East Asia competition authorities, especially the role undertaken by The Japan Fair Trade Commission and the Asian Development Bank Institute, in striving to organise this event almost annually since the year 2004 with the common purpose to network, share experiences and views, on issues related to competition policy and advocacy in the East Asia region.

To be held, back to back, with our event today would be The 8th East Asia Top-Level Officials Meeting on Competition Law and Policy. This top-level meeting is a closed-door meeting, exclusively for officials’ of the competition agencies and authorities, mainly to discuss the challenges they face in enforcing respective competition laws, and fostering closer cooperation on competition policy and law among East Asia economies particularly where technical cooperation is concerned.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As most of you are aware, Malaysia has joined the ranks of more than 120 countries, with a competition law regime. We have moved into a new era, supported by the New Economic Model (NEM), which forms the backbone of reform, and which was unveiled in March of 2010 by the Right Hon. The Prime Minister. The competition law is to play a significant role in this new era, to bring about a more competitive economy, encourage innovation and creativity.

The introduction of the Competition Act which came into effect on 1 January 2012 has been timely. While liberalisation and market openness is encouraged, there is also a need to govern the conduct of market players so as to safeguard against the evil of market economy such as cartel practices and rent seeking monopolies devoid of innovation which ultimately leads to the detriment of the general consumers.

The crux of the competition provisions in the Competition Act 2010 are the same as you would find in other jurisdictions, with the exception of mergers and acquisitions. The law prohibits anti competitive agreements, also commonly known as cartel practices, and an abuse of a dominant position. Many have asked us why, there are no provisions on mergers and acqusitions…….well, the government had deliberated on this issue seriously and was of the view that with such a new law being introduced, time has to be given to build the capacity of the institution, before such a merger regime is introduced as, it not only needs extensive resources but also is a time consuming and intensive exercise. And we have not done anything extraordinary, as many jurisdictions have taken the same route.

As most of you may also know, the Malaysia Competition Commission or MyCC for short, was established on 1 April 2011. Empowered with ‘quasi judicial’ powers to investigate and impose penalties for any infringement of the prohibitions contained in the Competition Act 2010, the Commission is the ‘new kid on the block’ tasked in guarding, promoting and maintaining the new business landscape in the country.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The chosen theme of the conference today “Prescription against Cartel Offences” coincides with the pinnacle of our competition law regime. In fact, allow me to make some observations especially among the East Asia economies, “We may have different policy measures, we may have different sets of laws, we may have different approaches but one thing we have in common is that there is a strong need to fight and find the anti-dope against cartel practices which are virtually prohibited by all systems of competition law and are often the subject of severe penalties. Mario Monti, former European Union Commissioner for Competition once described cartels as ‘cancers on the open market economy’. At both the moral and practical levels there is not a great deal of difference between cartel practices and theft. Quoting from John Vickers – “Hard core cartels are like theft. Criminalisation makes the punishment fit, what is indeed a crime.”

Over recent years, there has been a hardening and rigorous attitude towards cartel enforcement. In 2008 the House of Lords, the final court of appeal in the UK, reached the conclusion that some forms of price fixing, amount to the crime of conspiracy to defraud at common law; in other words some cartel infringement could lead to the imprisonment of individuals even in the absence of such powers formally provided under the UK competition law regime. Those in this area practicing competition law will know that many jurisdictions have imposed hefty fines on some of the cartel offenders. I was even made to understand that last year, competition authorities in Japan and Korea respectively, imposed severe financial penalties on cartel offences resulting in fines amounting to more than US $200 million for each case. In the ASEAN region, many of the jurisdictions have imposed severe fines too, on a number of cartel offenders.

In outlining a higher priority towards cartel infringement, MyCC has recently introduced its draft guidelines on anti-competitive agreements, which essentially gives a clearer explaination to the provisions found in the law. Having gone through an extensive public consultation process, the guidelines are being uploaded on our website today.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Besides the need to fight against rampant cartel practices, advocacy efforts are also one of the strong pillars of MyCC, to ensure effective implementation of the Competition Act 2010. Working towards a vision of a competitive market, the MyCC is relentlessly working towards promoting a robust competition friendly environment, through advocacy and non enforcement initiatives, directed at targeted stakeholders in the government, business and civil society sectors. Grounded on the presumption that awareness of the law and the benefits it brings about, they will lead to greater compliance, the MyCC is directing its advocacy efforts towards encouraging stakeholders to choose self assessment. In outlining the above principles, the MyCC Advocacy Strategy Plan for the years 2012-2014 was recently launched.

For the year 2011, 34 advocacy efforts, to important targeted stakeholders’, country wide, were conducted while for the current year as of April 2012, 13 such sessions have already taken place. The reality that the law has been enforced, has, I suppose, just set in, judging from the frenzied requests for advocacy sessions. Nevertheless, while we endeavour to meet these requests, we hope that the business community here today, will take their own initiative to engage qualified people to assist them understand the implications of the law, and ensure compliance.

Lastly before I end, I would urge my colleagues in the Commission as well as the other local participants to make full use of this event in establishing closer ties and experiences with other more established authorities in the East Asia region. My special thanks to the MyCC secretariat, officials from the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) as well as Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) staff who have been working relentlessly day and night, in ensuring the success of this event. I wish you all a good conference and thank you for your kind attention and participation.

Wabillahitaufikwalhidayah, wassalamualikum w.b.t.

Thank you