by Maher M Dabbah. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 366pp. Hardback $105.00/£58.00. ISBN: 9780521869089. eBook format. $84.00. ISBN: 9780511363962.
Reviewed by Kasturi Moodaliyar, Oliver Shreiner School of Law, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Email: kasturi.moodaliyar [at] wits.ac.za.
This book is an unprecedented exploration of competition law and policy in the Middle East. Most competition law texts generally focus on the EU or the US application of the law and very little is written about competition law and policy in other countries. COMPETITION LAW AND POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST provides an interesting perspective as to how the competition policies were formulated in the various Middle Eastern countries, which I am sure, most readers would find fascinating. The book is written for an academic audience but does focus on the practical aspects that the competition authorities face in the various jurisdictions.
Maher M. Dabbah initially focuses on the Middle East as a region of competition law development. More specifically he has identified the following countries (albeit not an exhaustive list) that fall within the region: Israel, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. He identifies five issues that resonate through all Middle Eastern Countries (MECs) which are (a) Foreign direct investment, (b) Economic growth and poverty, (c) Corporate governance, (d) Institute structure and design and (e) Competition advocacy.
The MECs are identified as predominantly Islamic countries (except for Israel), and the chapter on the relationship with Islam attempts to dispel any myths or pre-misconceptions that a reader may have about the book. In this chapter Dabbah examines whether there is a mutual influence of competition law and policy with Islam. Islam placed in the context of competition law and policy appears to be an unusual association, but the roots of competition law and policy in Islam, as Dabbah points out, stems as far back as the seventh century. The author delves into the various sources of Islamic texts, for example, the Quran and Ejtihad, whose concepts have been influential in this ideology.
The third chapter is devoted to Israel, the home to the MEC’s oldest competition law. The Restrictive Business Practices Law of 1959 was modeled largely on the UK competition laws of the time. Dabbah spends a fair amount of discussion on the mechanisms of the competition law system in Israel, from how restrictive agreements, monopolies and mergers are dealt with, to competition advocacy and Israel’s international outlook. Although it seems like a slow start for the competition law [*8] to be used effectively, the law did evolve over time to the point where there have been more amendments under the 1988 Law and discussion of further development. Dabbah explores the two gaps in the 1988 Law, the adaptation to a restrictive arrangement and block exemptions. The author advocates for radical reform of the 1988 law to bring it in line with world standards as well as to improve Israel’s economy and consumer welfare.
Chapter Four provides in depth discussion of the Republic of Turkey and the development of competition law in this region which, Dabbah postulates, was founded on strong economic ideology based on strategic political ambitions and desires. Although competition law was enacted in the 1960s, it was only in the 1980s that the Government moved toward liberalization of the economy and devoted greater focus to prevent monopolization and cartelization in markets. Apart from the structure of the competition authority and the nature of the restrictive practices that fall under their jurisdiction, Dabbah discusses Turkey’s involvement with other institutions, such as the EC, EFTA states, Israel FTA, Morocco FTA and Palestine FTA, and he postulates that further development in competition law will see more of an alignment by Turkey with the EC practices.
Chapter Five covers competition law and policy in the Arab Maghreb countries based in the north of Africa – Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. Each country had its own reasons for developing competition policy. Some of the countries seem to be aligning their policies with the EC.
Chapter Six on Jordan discusses the economic transformation since the year 2000. In its effort to transform its economy, Jordan has become signatory to a number of trade agreements with the EC, EFTA and US Qualified Industrial Zones. Jordan also experienced competition law development in the 1990s and subsequently in terms of the present Competition Act of 2004. Dabbah emphasizes that in addition to having a competition Act, the Courts will also have an important role to play to enforce the Act and that the Directorate should also focus on capacity-building activities.
Chapter Seven examines the competition policy in Gulf States – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Republic of Yemen. There are also Gulf States with no specific competition law such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf States are also in an economic transition. Dabbah illustrates the huge significance of competition law and policy introduced in the Gulf States, with the caveat that there is much to be done in building effective competition regimes.
Chapter Eight focuses on Egypt and its pursuit of globalization. The author speaks of the Egyptian Government’s economic agenda which was to try to bring it in line with Europe in order to facilitate trade with and investment by these European countries. This was cemented by the Association Agreement between Egypt and the EC which became effective in 2004. This agreement also stimulated Egypt’s move towards the development of competition [*9] policy, and in 2005 the Protection of Competition and the Prevention of Monopolistic Practices was adopted. Dabbah indicates that this Act may have been too ambitious and that there is huge ambiguity in the wording and scope of the Act which may make it difficult to enforce. Competition issues in the cement, steel and telecommunications industries are discussed. However, it appears that more advocacy is required in Egypt’s competition law and policy as well as a redraft of the Act.
Chapter Nine on Lebanon and Syria have been paired due to their close association, but the author points out that that these two countries do not share the same competition law and policy regimes. Lebanon has moved towards a more comprehensive progressive competition law, and through the Association Agreement has helped strengthen trade relations with the EC. Dabbah addresses two competition challenges that Lebanon faces, namely, the high level of concentration in domestic markets and the exclusive agents that dominate the Lebanese markets. Syria, on the other hand, has had its challenges with a struggling economy. The motivation for Syria to work towards enacting a competition law appears to be influenced by other international organizations such as UNCTAD, the EC, as well as other MECs. The policy focuses on aspects such as collusion, abuse of dominance, mergers and exemptions, and also deals with pricing policies in special cases and the improper exercise of intellectual property rights. The author also notes that Syria’s competition law is not just a mere ‘cut and paste’ of competition laws from other jurisdictions, but rather, special attention has been paid to the needs of Syria as a developing country.
When we think of the Middle East, images of war torn destruction generally comes to mind, least of all competition law and policy. This book clearly sheds light on the competition law and policy challenges facing MECs. Although it may appear to have a limited geographical reach, the challenges and lessons that the MECs have faced transcend their jurisdictional boundaries.
© Copyright 2009 by the author, Kasturi Moodaliyar.