EXCLUSIVE China readies plan to elevate status of antitrust unit – sources

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BEIJING, Oct 13 (Businesshala) – China is considering raising the status of its antitrust bureau within the markets regulatory agency as it steps up a campaign against anti-competitive behavior, two people familiar with the matter said.

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The ever-low-profile State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) made headlines this year at the urging of President Xi Jinping to root out and punish anti-competitive behavior, especially in the vast online “platform” economy. gave a push.

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Under a new structure under consideration by the government, the Antitrust Bureau will become the National Antimonopoly Bureau and be given deputy ministerial status while within SAMR, said two people with information on the plans.

The higher ranking will help antitrust investigators gain resources when probing mergers and acquisitions, the people said, adding that Beijing is looking to strengthen its hand in reining in the power of the corporate giant.

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The proposed new structure, details of which have not been previously reported, will also strengthen SAMR’s in-house capability to conduct research, which previously had to be outsourced, according to the people.

Businesshala reported in April that Beijing was planning to increase SAMR’s antitrust task force and hand over the power to review the matter to its local bureau.

Gan Lin, SAMR’s current deputy minister, will head the Advanced Bureau within SAMR, the people said.

SAMR did not respond to a request for comment on the plans and Gana could not be immediately contacted for comment.

The plan is subject to change and requires the final approval of China’s State Council, or cabinet, as well as the National People’s Congress, said the sources, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media. .

The proposed status upgrade of SAMR’s Antitrust Bureau comes after Xi in March cited the need to “strengthen antitrust powers” to rein in corporate giants, who play a major role in the country’s consumer sector.

One of the people said Beijing looked to European antitrust officials as a model as it seeks to upgrade its antitrust capabilities. In August, SAMR’s antitrust office said on its website that it had invited experts from the European Union and the United States to conduct online courses for Chinese “anti-geniuses”.

Wu Zhenguo, head of SAMR’s anti-monopoly bureau, told industrial online magazine The Antitrust: “Compared to other major anti-monopoly enforcement authorities in the world, authorities in China currently have fewer staff, which need to be replaced in the future. ” Source 1 July interview.

China has dramatically abandoned a relatively laissez-faire approach to market regulation of the Internet sector this year, withholding mergers and a record $2.75 billion fine on e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) for abuse. Includes installation. its market position.

This month, it fined food delivery giant Meituan (3690.HK) $527 million, also for abusing its market dominance.

Beijing has elevated the administrative position of other regulatory bodies in the past as its governance agenda has evolved. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment was upgraded from a national bureau to a ministry in 2008, and later redesignated with more powers during the 2018 government overhaul.

($1 = 6.4485 Chinese Yuan Renminbi)

Reporting by Cheng Leng, Yingzi Yang and Tony Munro; Editing by Stephen Coates

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