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Appointment of the Competition Commission

The long-awaited Myanmar Competition Commission (Commission) has been appointed. Notification 106/2018 of the Union Government released on 31 October 2018 appointed the various members of the Commission.

This is the next step towards the active implementation and enforcement of the Myanmar Competition Law 2015 (Law), which took effect in February 2017. Earlier this year the Ministry of Commerce also released the first of a series of Competition Rules (Rules) which will provide significant guidance around the implementation of the Law – the first set of Rules addressed both the operation of the Commission and the approach to leniency for breaches of the Law.

The newly appointed Commission contains a mix of professionals and government officials (consistent with the approach to developing competition authorities in other countries). This includes the Union Minister for Commerce who will act as the Chair of the Commission and the Director General of the Department of Trade who will be the Secretary of the Commission. They will be supported by a range of individuals, including lawyers, economists, representatives of the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Transport and Communication and the Union Attorney General’s Office.

Next steps for the Competition Law

While establishment of the Commission is essential for decision-making under the Law, it must be supported by a team of dedicated and trained staff members who run investigations, collect evidence, and assess merger filings. This Competition Department has been established under the Ministry of Commerce for a number of months now. With the new Commission, it is likely that the Competition Department is ready to commence the day-to-day operation and implementation of the Law.

We expect that the initial priorities of the Commission will be education and training for Myanmar businesses in relation to the Law and the Rules. This is generally the first step toward full effectiveness of a new competition regime. After that, it is likely to be cases which the Commission considers are “low-hanging fruit”, generally easily identified competition cartel activity. Given that Myanmar is a rapidly developing economy, however, there is also a risk that initial decisions might focus on market control, including dominance, exclusive dealing or predatory pricing activity.

At this stage, as there are still no merger thresholds or filing procedures released by the Commission or the Competition Department we do not expect merger cases will be an immediate priority.

With these recent developments, it is possible that the first decisions of the Commission might begin to emerge as early as the middle of 2019. With this in mind, businesses operating in Myanmar should be actively considering their compliance with the Law and ensuring that their staff are adequately trained in recognising, avoiding, and addressing potential competition law risks in the business. At the minimum this should include an active international-standard competition compliance programme and regular training for staff to remind them of the personal and corporate risks attached to breaches of the Law.

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Rowan Kendall is a Senior Associate in Baker & McKenzie's Yangon, Myanmar office. Prior to joining the Yangon office, he was one of the first associates in the Brisbane office. He has expertise advising clients on aspects of competition law, including cartel investigations, merger clearances and third party access regulation.