In brief

Four new deliverables were introduced after a mid-term review of the original ASEAN Competition Action Plan 2016-2025. These include a new ASEAN Information Portal on Merger Cases, a new ASEAN Investigation Manual on Competition Policy and Law for the Digital Economy, initiatives to promote discussions between heads of competition authorities on the harmonization of competition policy and law, and a refreshed regional capacity building roadmap for 2021 to 2025. The ASEAN Expert Group on Competition explained that these new deliverables were introduced “based on the current competition landscape and trends in ASEAN and globally.”

The new deliverables expound on the ASEAN Expert Group on Competition’s existing initiatives in the ACAP to “future proof” competition policy and law in the region.

As ASEAN member states focus on sustaining the wave of business digitalization catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unsurprising that SE Asian competition authorities are turning their focus to the digital sector. Additionally, under the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025, the digital sector is expected to accelerate economic integration between ASEAN member states. The introduction of the new ASEAN Investigation Manual on Competition Policy and Law for the Digital Economy is a clear indication that SE Asian competition authorities expect more competition issues of a cross-border nature to arise in the digital sector.

Relatedly, as SE Asian economies become more integrated, the effects of anti-competitive agreements, conduct that abuse dominant market position, and mergers are expected to become cross-border or regional in nature. The new deliverables, that is, ASEAN Information Portal on Merger Cases and initiatives to promote discussions between heads of competition authorities on the harmonization of competition policy and law address the need for harmonization of competition policy and law as well as cooperation between competition authorities.

Businesses that operate in the region, especially those in the digital sector, are encouraged to undertake a timely review of their operations to ensure that they do not fall foul of competition laws. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you wish to discuss how this development may affect your business operations in SE Asia.

In more detail

The ASEAN Competition Action Plan 2016-2025 (ACAP) contains five strategic goals that are aimed at achieving the vision of a “competitive, innovative, and dynamic ASEAN with an effective and progressive competition policy.” These strategic goals are as follows:

  • Strategic Goal 1: Effective competition regimes established in all ASEAN member states
  • Strategic Goal 2: The capacities of competition-related agencies in AMS strengthened to effectively implement competition policy and law
  • Strategic Goal 3: Regional cooperation arrangements on competition policy and law in place
  • Strategic Goal 4: Fostering a competition-aware ASEAN region
  • Strategic Goal 5: Moving towards greater harmonization of competition policy and law in ASEAN

A mid-term review was undertaken “after 5 years of implementation to take stock of the implementation status of the ACAP, reviewing achievements and shortcomings, drawing relevant lessons for adjustment(s) and refinement(s), and developing a new implementation schedule for the 2021-2025 period.” Four new deliverables were introduced in the updated ACAP:

  • Under Strategic Goal 5: Conducting meetings of heads of competition agencies in ASEAN from 2021 ̶ This is aimed at promoting high level policy dialogue on the regional harmonization of the competition policy and law in ASEAN.
  • Under Strategic Goal 2: Developing the Regional Capacity Building Roadmap 2021-2025 by 2021 ̶ This is aimed at addressing capacity-building gaps in view of a set of skills or competencies that competition authorities’ officials and related actors, such as judges, should possess to effectively enforce competition law.
  • Under Strategic Goal 2: Developing an ASEAN Investigation Manual on competition policy and law for the Digital Economy by 2022 ̶ This is aimed at providing guidance to competition authorities’ officials conducting market study reviews or investigations in the digital sector.
  • Under Strategic Goal 3: Developing Guidelines for Sharing Merger Cases in the AEGC Portal and establishing an Information Portal on Merger Cases by 2023 ̶ This is aimed at promoting regional cooperation between competition authorities in the region.

These new deliverables were introduced “based on the current competition landscape and trends in ASEAN and globally.”

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