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Fair trading and competition


Fair trading and competition

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The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) recently held its seventh annual two-day training workshop on competition law and policy. This year’s guest facilitator was Mariana Bruno, deputy director of the United States FTC’s Bureau of Competition, who we feature this week.

What are your primary duties as deputy director within the United States Fair Trading Commission’s Bureau of Competition?

My primary duties as deputy director include oversight and management of five divisions: operations, policy and coordination, pre-merger notification, honours para-legals programme, and information and litigation support.

I was promoted to this position after having served as an attorney in our pre-merger notification office and our health care division, assistant to the director, assistant director of the pre-merger office and as associate.

Based on your experience, what would you say are the predominant benefits of competition policy, especially to a diversified region like the Caribbean?

As we said often over the days of the workshop, fair competition laws protect the process of competition for the benefit of consumers, making sure that there are strong incentives for businesses to operate efficiently, keep prices down and keep quality up. This translates to lower prices, better service, greater choice, and more innovation. This is just as true in the Caribbean as it is throughout the world.

To be sure, your market structures may be different than ours, but the laws of economics work the same way in both. In our country, Hawaii is an island economy, but our competition laws work to the benefit of Hawaiians just as they do for the benefit of all Americans.

How can a small market like Barbados maintain competitiveness despite its limited market size and less demanding consumer culture?

In a small economy, it is especially important that there be no artificial barriers to entering markets. If there are markets that can only support one or two competitors, then it is critical that new entrants be able to challenge existing firms. So that would mean paying close attention to licensing schemes and other regulatory barriers to make sure that they don’t have unintended consequences of keeping new competitors out of the market.

For us, that’s why competition advocacy has such a key role. We work closely with regulators to develop a mutual understanding of how competition can benefit consumers and further the regulators’ own objectives.

Transparency of FTC practices and decisions, along with outreach such as holding seminars, go a long way towards increasing awareness of the competition laws. Providing a fair playing field where both companies and consumers can benefit should help promote the Barbados economy.

During the workship you mentioned that the advent of the Internet has made monitoring of competition a more straightforward task. How can small island states like Barbados use Internet-based information to advance their own competition efforts?

I was referring to the easy accessibility that the Internet provides to all sorts of information – trade press, company websites with balance sheets and strategic information, trade association data or the like. It allows the agency to learn about industries and activities more quickly.

It also helps new firms reach consumers and enter markets more effectively and informs consumers about other choices they might have in the market that they might not have known about.

On a personal note, is this your first time to the Caribbean or to Barbados?

This is my first visit to Barbados – I’m sad that I could not stay longer in such a beautiful place! Everyone is very welcoming.