Wednesday, November 7, 2007

China's New Anti-Monopoly Law: More Power to the People or the Government?

China’s promulgation of its first ever comprehensive anti-monopoly statute captivated the interest of many scholars and practicing lawyers. Since the first draft of the Anti-Monopoly Law (“AML”) first surfaced, countless articles and comments have been written about the law, given the heavy-weight nature of a comprehensive competition law. Some even referred to this newly-adopted AML as “an economic constitution”, underlining its prospective important rule in China’s economy.

As the clock ticks down toward August 1, 2008, when the AML will become effective, some have expressed their concerns and thoughts about what exactly the AML could bring to the table in terms of fulfilling the stated legislative purposes of this law. Will it be a law enforced in the best interest of protecting consumer rights and general public interests, or will it be just another vehicle for the government to increase its power and influence in the private domain of business and commerce?

Recently, I finished reading an article written by Mr. Paul Jones, a Canadian international lawyer based in Toronto. Paul not only does an excellent job of reassembling the AML in a more reader-friendly fashion (unless you are a civil law statute purist who loves reading civil codes as they are), but also adds some very thoughtful discussions about what the AML is about or could morph into in the future:

On August 30, 2007, after l3 years of discussion the 29th Session of the l0th National People's Congress adopted the Anti-Monopoly Law ("AML") to come into effect on August l, 2008. Will this be the new "economic constitution" for China's market economy as hoped by the sponsors; or a source of "uncertainty for domestic and foreign companies over how the government will use its new powers?" Foreign companies are particularly concerned about provisions allowing for a review of mergers and acquisitions on national security grounds.

The answer at this time must be that, like the development of China's market economy, the AML is still a work in progress. While the basic framework of general principles has been set out in the AML, as would be appropriate for a fundamental piece of civil law legislation, the details that expand upon and clarify the principles will come in the regulations, measures and guidelines that hopefully will be issued in the months to come.

Please click here to read the entire article.

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