More than 80 countries now have competition laws. Recent entrants include Singapore, which introduced competition law in 2005, and China, which introduced a merger clearance regime in 2003.
Now the government of Hong Kong is preparing to introduce general competition legislation, recently issuing its Report on Public Consultation on the Way Forward for Hong Kong’s Competition Policy (the “Consultation Report”) and briefing the Economic Services Panel of the Hong Kong Legislative Council on changes to its competition policy. Currently, Hong Kong only has competition regulation in the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors.
The government indicated that it would proceed to enact a cross-sector competition law. Hong Kong’s Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Stephen Ip, in his presentation to the Legislative Council, indicated that the government’s recent consultation process showed widespread support for a cross-sector competition law, and that the government would begin drafting legislation with a view to presenting a bill to the Legislative Council this year.
Proponents of competition law in Hong Kong have argued that there is a need to ensure a level playing field for Hong Kong businesses, discourage anti-competitive behaviour in the economy and avoid discrimination against certain business sectors through sectoral regulation. There have also been specific allegations of anticompetitive behaviour in specific sectors, including auto fuel, supermarkets and port-related fees.
Opponents of a new law argue that Hong Kong is already a free and competitive market with few entry barriers. Competition can be enhanced in other ways and introducing cross-sectoral competition law could increase the cost of doing business locally and affect Hong Kong’s regional competitiveness. Some larger corporations have also expressed concern that competition legislation may be used to target existing market structures.