Officials Agree: Competition Law Is Just Good Business

Government officials, donors and the private sector plan to have a Competition Law in place by 2006, Commerce Ministry Sec­re­tary of State Mao Thura said Tues­day at a roundtable meeting to discuss the new legislation.

“I think the Competition Law is important for business and society,” Mao Thura said, adding that it is also necessary for Cambodia to adopt the law according to the terms of its accession to the World Trade Organization.

Cambodia formally acceded to the WTO in October 2004.

A Competition Law would seek to establish a framework for fair, transparent economic competition in Cambodia and to eliminate mo­n­opolies, price fixing, bid rigging and other unfair business practices, according to a draft of the law prepared by European Com­mis­sion Consultant Geoffrey Sum­ner.

Unfair competition practices af­fect a wide range of industries—in particular electricity, telecom­mu­nications and banking—ac­cording to data released last week by the Economic Institute of Cam­­bodia.

“I have learned that even the pig slaughtering business is likely a monopoly,” Mao Thura said at the roundtable meeting, adding that he was also concerned by allegations of price fixing by gasoline sellers.

He did not, however, name any suspected price fixers by name.

“The price of gasoline in the mar­ket today is not the price made by the government,” he said.

Economist Kang Chandararot, executive director of the Cam­bo­dia Institute of Develop­ment Stu­dy, said he thought the proposed Competition Law was a good idea but cautioned that a competent commercial court would also be necessary to enforce it.

“I’m very happy that the government and private sector are drafting a Competition Law,” he said. “But I’m also concerned about the court system. If we can create a commercial court, then things will go forward.”

Garment Manufacturers Asso­cia­tion of Cambodia President Van Sou Ieng said Tuesday that the most important thing is that people and businesses, not just the government, understand the law.

“Explanation of the law to the public is even more important than law enforcement because the en­force­ment people don’t even un­derstand their own law,” he said. “If the public…understands the law, they comply more effectively.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Cowden)

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