Thank you, President Mundt. It is a pleasure to be here today and to share this opening session with you and Chairman Simons. We welcome our competition enforcement colleagues from around the world. Working together with ICN leadership and members, the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division is proud to serve as co-host of the ICN 2020 with the Federal Trade Commission.
I am immensely proud of the dedicated staff of the Antitrust Division’s International Section and the FTC for all of their hard work and for swiftly and effectively pivoting from the fantastic program we had planned for Los Angeles to this virtual conference. I would also like to thank the ICN Chair – Andreas Mundt, and his team at the BKA – and the ICN Secretariat, for their vision and leadership. And last, but certainly not least, ICN 2020 would not have been possible without the engagement of ICN members, particularly the Working Group Co-Chairs. Thank you for all that you have contributed.
Let me also send a heartfelt thank you to our Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International, Rene Augustine, and our Chief of the International Section, Lynda Marshall, for their hard work and capable dedication in managing all of our international engagement efforts.
I am pleased we can join together in this conference, and perhaps it especially is fortuitously appropriate that we are doing so virtually, to discuss the important and timely issue of antitrust enforcement in the digital economy.
The digital economy, as you know, has transformed the way we live and work. Most recently, we have seen technology help us respond to challenges the pandemic presents, allowing many of us to work from home, hold meetings virtually, educate our children, and even attend this global conference without requiring any of us to travel.
Digitization has contributed to improvements in the human condition on a once unimaginable and global scale. Nearly every industry, ranging from communications to medicine to agriculture, has joined the digital economy. By protecting robust competition through sound antitrust policy and enforcement, we can ensure an environment conducive to innovation that benefits us all.
While many other public policy issues and goals may be worthy, ranging from sustainability to equity, the antitrust laws are designed for, and have worked effectively for more than a century in the United States, to promote a single policy: competition. When competition is at its strongest, good things follow for the consumer in the form of lower prices, higher quality, and enhanced innovation and its related dimensions, such as data and privacy protection.
Historically, we have seen the antitrust laws successfully applied to new and transformative industries, whether telephones, oil, or computers. By timely using our existing laws to ensure robust competition in the digital marketplace, we can prevent having to resort to the blunt tool of government-mandated technological solutions, which can stifle the very innovative atmosphere that our competition laws seek to promote.
As antitrust enforcers, the onus is on us to continuously sharpen our tools in terms of our expertise in the digital arena. Our team at the Justice Department continues to build on its years of experience and stay abreast of the trends in this area. We recently realigned the commodities at the Antitrust Division to enable attorneys in one of our sections to focus full time on technology markets and the competitive characteristics of platform markets. We also recently announced a technology initiative to deepen our expertise and understanding of cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. I particularly look forward to the opportunity this conference provides for ICN members to share insights with one another as we all remain vigilant in the protection of competition in the digital age.
We all know that when carbon is subjected to intense pressure and heat, it transforms into one of the hardest minerals on Earth, the diamond. Like many things that become better and stronger in the face of adversity, we are dealing with challenges today that we could not possibly have imagined when the idea of ICN 2020 was in its infancy. Thinking back to the start of ICN 2020 planning two years ago, we have some tremendous accomplishments together since that time, such as last year’s Framework on Competition Agency Procedures and this year’s Guidance on Enhancing Cross-Border Leniency Cooperation. As the ICN has consistently demonstrated since its inception, no difficulty we face is insurmountable.
The ICN’s upcoming Third Decade project offers a time of self-reflection, through which we can metabolize these challenges to form an even stronger ICN. Much as we have in the years past, we will rise to today’s challenges together and continue to transform the international competition community for the better.