Singapore, 3 November 2010

Ms. Yena Lim, Chief Executive, Competition Commission of Singapore;

Excellencies;

Representatives of the ASEAN Experts Group on Competition;

Distinguished Guests, Speakers and Participants;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Good morning.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today. At the outset, let me convey the warmest greetings and best wishes of H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN for a successful forum.

I am honoured to have the Chief Executive of the Singapore Competition Commission with us today. Her welcome remarks have certainly set the tone for our deliberations at this forum. We are also fortunate to have the presence of experienced speakers and panellists as well as a large number of distinguished guests, stakeholder representatives, and participants. I am very confident that this will lead to fruitful deliberations and exchange of views at this forum on the important issue of Competition that will define the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to be established in the year 2015.

I am thankful as well for the support and excellent arrangements made by the Competition Commission of Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation for this meeting. I also wish to acknowledge, with much appreciation, InWEnt-Capacity Building International of Germany and the German Federal Foreign Office, which have been our valued partners in supporting competition-related work in ASEAN.

Madame Chief Executive, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Competition policy and law is a new area of regional cooperation in ASEAN. Despite this, cooperation efforts among ASEAN Member States have gained significant momentum. A good case in point is the development of the ASEAN Regional Guidelines on Competition Policy and the Handbook on Competition Policy and Law in ASEAN for Business.

These two policy documents were completed as scheduled in the AEC Blueprint, the action-oriented master plan for building our Economic Community. The two documents were officially launched by the ASEAN Economic Ministers and the Secretary-General of ASEAN on 24 August 2010 in Danang, Viet Nam. The ASEAN Heads of State and Government at their recent Summit in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, last week welcomed the launching and expressed the belief that the two documents would improve further the regional business environment for domestic and transnational enterprises operating in ASEAN.

In an effort to socialise the two documents, a series of eight workshops and forums will be held across ASEAN for public dissemination of the Guidelines and the Handbook and this being the first for the Handbook. All these actions reflect, in a concrete way, the importance that our region has placed in fostering and ensuring open markets and a level playing field for businesses and investments in ASEAN.

A culture of healthy competition and business rivalries are critical elements in the realisation of a vibrant AEC by 2015. The AEC is envisaged to establish a single market and production base where there will be free flow of trade, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital. The single market and production base is expected to be competitive with more equitable development across the region and one that is plugged into the global economy, in particular the regional and global value chains.

Notably, ASEAN and the world economy have become increasingly competitive and dynamic in the last two decades, reflecting in part comprehensive liberalisation of external transactions and extensive deregulation of domestic policy. As such, competition policy and law have played and will continue to play a complementary role in helping governments, businesses and the consumers to reap the full benefits of greater external liberalisation and domestic policy deregulation.

Madame Chief Executive, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Handbook represents an initial, and pioneering, step in disseminating the basics of competition discipline as currently applicable in all ten ASEAN Member States. It contains an overview of the principles, scope and key areas in enforcement, and the related legal processes and procedures in ASEAN. The Handbook materials are compiled in a non-technical and user-friendly way, and are easily understood by the layman.

As such, this policy document will be of significant interest and relevance to a much wider circle of stakeholders and professionals, in addition to its primary target of transnational or regional enterprises with investment projects or a commercial presence in one or more ASEAN Member States. To facilitate dissemination in this digital age, this publication has been uploaded on-line in the ASEAN website.

At this juncture, it may be useful for me to underline that there is no universal regime on competition policy and law to fit all circumstances. In general, a broad consensus exists on the objectives and principles for pursuit by competition policy and law. Nevertheless, a standard footprint in competition policy and law has yet to emerge globally or among major economies and jurisdictions with so many decades of competition regulation, operational experiences and institutional memories, including the United States and European Union.

Different policy concerns and development needs have resulted in different profiles of laws and policies applicable among different countries, such as those in ASEAN. The varying scope approaches and procedures relating to competition policy and law in ASEAN Member States are duly reflected in the Handbook. The second document, the Guidelines has made a credible effort to provide inputs for reference by ASEAN countries in the framing of competition policy and law to meet their specific needs from their own legal and economic contexts.

Madame Chief Executive, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is still a way to go for ASEAN in implementing fully competition policy and laws. Clusters of competition-related skills and experiences will need to be widened, deepened and strengthened in the region. Furthermore, new core competencies will have to be developed and adapted in response to the complex challenges such as from further liberalisation, deregulation and globalisation to the emergence of a multi-polar world economy.

In closing, I wish to reiterate that the ASEAN Experts Group on Competition and ASEAN Secretariat stand ready to work with all stakeholders and organisations in our collective efforts to further develop and strengthen a level playing field and a culture of healthy competition and business rivalries in ASEAN as we build our Economic Community. We are also ready and prepared to collaborate in capacity building activities related to competition policy and law at both the regional and national levels. We will continue to improve the two “living” documents to better reflect changes and developments in ASEAN as we approach the realisation of our Economic Community in the next few years. I am sure the work on Competition will continue as we strengthen our Economic Community beyond 2015 with the commitment of our Member States, the support of our Partners and the active participation of all stakeholders.

Thank you for your kind attention.