Contestability 'theory', its links with Australia's competition policy, and recent international trade and investment agreements
This article examines how contestable market theory (contestability) has come to reconfigure the economic and regulatory concept of competition in order to enhance the compatibility of Australia's economy with international trade and investment agreements. Australia has recently negotiated and signed a raft of bilateral, plurilateral and regional agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement. In order to ensure that Australia meets its obligations and commitments to these agreements, two key advisory bodies - the Harper Panel on Competition Policy Review and the Financial System Inquiry - made recommendations, the majority of which were accepted by the government, to ready Australia's competition governance and economic policy for greater global integration. Such impact is dependent on, among other things, how domestic competition policy meshes with the free market ideology underpinning such international agreements, which favours the breakdown of barriers to markets. Less well known is the role of contestability in radicalising ideology as it countenances monopolisation and privatisation in the guise of market access by justifying the substitution of actual competition with the mere threat of competition. The article concludes that the monopoly power of transnational corporations will be enhanced through the acquiescence of governments to the new governance regime of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which, supported by domestic policy, is set to redraw competition policy in the light of contestability theory.
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