Documents considered by the Committee on 14 December 2016 Contents

5EU/Canada co-operation in competition law enforcement

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Treasury Committee

Document details

(a) Council Decision on the signing of the Agreement between the EU and Government of Canada regarding the application of their competition laws

(b) Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the EU and Government of Canada regarding the application of their competition laws

Legal base

Articles 103 and 352, in conjunction with Article 218(5) (on signing) and Article 218(6)(a)(v) (on conclusion) TFEU; Unanimity

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Numbers

(a) (37916), 10819/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 421

(b) (37917), 10821/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 423

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

5.1The EU and Canada have cooperated in the area of competition policy enforcement since 1999 (pursuant to the existing Agreement).33

5.2The proposals concern an extension of existing EU-Canada competition enforcement cooperation arrangements, to include the exchange of information gathered by their respective competition authorities during antitrust and merger investigations (the new Agreement). The Commission may share such information with Member States’ competition authorities (in the case of the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)).

5.3The Government is supportive of these proposals as they “should increase the ability of both organisations [Commission and the Canadian Competition Bureau] to conclude competition enforcement investigations efficiently”, which in turn should benefit EU stakeholders by “boosting consumer choice, jobs, growth and investment and lowering prices for consumers and businesses”.

Brexit implications

5.4At its meeting on 12 October, the Committee asked the Government for information on whether it would seek to participate in this Agreement after the UK withdraws from the EU and, if so, how it may be possible to secure its continuing application.

5.5The Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility (Margot James MP) stresses the importance of international cooperation for competition enforcement after the UK withdraws from the EU. She considers it “too early to say what exact form” future international cooperation will take, as this depends on negotiations with both the EU and other countries such as Canada, but notes two potential options:

5.6We thank the Minister for the information provided on the Brexit implications of such competition enforcement cooperation arrangements and now clear these proposals. We draw our Report chapters and the Minister’s response to the attention of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Treasury Committee, which may wish to probe the Government further in due course on whether it will seek to include competition enforcement cooperation between the UK and EU in the Article 50 withdrawal negotiations or as part of a wider post-Brexit EU-UK deal, and/or whether it will seek to continue to participate in existing competition enforcement agreements between the EU and third countries after Brexit or pursue new bilateral agreements.

Full details of the documents

(a) Council Decision on the signing of the Agreement between the EU and Government of Canada regarding the application of their competition laws: (37916), 10819/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 421; (b) Council Decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the EU and Government of Canada regarding the application of their competition laws: (37917), 10821/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 423.

Background

5.7Bilateral cooperation between the Commission and the Canadian Competition Bureau is based on the 1999 EU/Canada Competition Cooperation Agreement (the Agreement),34 which was signed at the EU/Canada Summit in Bonn in June 1999.

5.8The details of, and the Government’s position, on the new Agreement are set out in our previous Report chapter, listed at the end of this chapter.

The Minister’s letter of 24 October 2016

5.9In response to the Committee’s question on whether the Government will seek to participate in this Agreement after the UK withdraws from the EU and, if so, how this would be possible, the Minister states:

“International cooperation is important for competition enforcement and the Government will ensure that the UK is in the strongest possible position to cooperate on competition matters with our international partners in Europe, Canada and elsewhere following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

“There are a number of options for securing the means for international cooperation. The UK could seek agreement to extend current arrangements for cooperation for a period following withdrawal from the EU or it could seek new bespoke cooperation arrangements. The UK and Canada, for example, both have a criminal cartel offence. As no criminal cartel offence exists at EU-level, the Agreement between the EU and Canada does not allow information shared under it to be used to prosecute a criminal offence. It may be possible for the UK and Canada to establish closer cooperation in relation to the criminal cartel offence through a new bilateral agreement.

“As the form of any cooperation agreement will depend on our negotiation with the EU and negotiations with other countries such as Canada it is too early to say what exact form international cooperation will take. I can however assure the Committee that the Government will seek to ensure the best possible deal for the UK in any agreements it negotiates.”

Previous Committee Reports

Thirteenth Report HC 71-xi (2016–17), chapter 2 (12 October 2016).





16 December 2016