Dr. Sean Ennis is the new executive director of the Competition Commission of Mauritius, the two-year-old antitrust regulator for the island nation off the coast of Africa. Dr. Ennis is not Mauritian. He’s European. His background includes degrees from Cambridge and Berkeley, and he’s worked at the US Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the European Commission’s antitrust office. Recently he worked at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. Nothing in his CV suggests any prior ties to Mauritius.
Nonetheless, he is now the day-to-day manager for the Mauritian equivalent of the US Federal Trade Commission. Apparently it’s more important to have, as the Competition Commission’s press release put it, “extensive exposure to international best practice in competition law and policy in many sectors,” then it is to have ties or knowledge of the country where you do your regulating. Indeed the Commission’s first executive director was John Davies, who previously served in a similar role in his native United Kingdom.
Certainly people in the United States would not tolerate a foreign national running one of our government agencies. Of course, we have a seemingly endless supply of antitrust lawyers, so that’s not really an issue. “Developing” antitrust regulators like Mauritius feel they need to emulate the US and EU by actually importing foreign regulators to rule over them. In the old days we called this “colonialism.”
The more pertinent question, however, was posed by Dr. Geoffrey Manne: “Tell me again why Mauritius even HAS a competition commission…” Mauritius has a population of just under 1.3 million people, about the same as New Hampshire. If Mauritius were a US state, its economy would be the smallest by a substantial margin, although it is substantially wealthier then most countries on the African continent. The US government’s own description of Mauritius notes that the country has about 5-6% economic growth annually and attracts a substantial amount of offshore investment.
No doubt this is why Mauritius is a target for antitrust predators. The US-European antitrust cartel understands it needs to expand its presence throughout every corner of the globe. Like the old Dutch East India Company, the antitrust cartel is a monopolist that sees colonization of small and developing nations as key to its growth and survival. Of course, instead of spices, the antitrust cartel trades in high-priced lawyers and “experts” like Mr. Ennis.
One South African law firm noted with glee after Mauritius adopted its present antitrust law in 2007 that the stage was set to re-colonize most of Africa under the antitrust cartel:
It is now only a matter of time before similar competition law agencies come to being in other African countries and companies can no longer think that they have free reign to engage in anti-competitive conduct on the continent. It is clear that the need to be compliant with any applicable competition law is becoming vital in order to avoid potentially costly fines and even jail time in certain jurisdictions.
Being “compliant” means diverting scarce resources away from productive uses and paying lawyers whose advice may turn out to be completely worthless. Even in highly developed antitrust regimes like the US, the law is vague and unknowable most times. Just imagine what it’s like dealing with a recently formed antitrust group that has yet to test the limits of its own power — and in the case of Mauritius, led by a man with no ties to the local legal or business culture.
Back here in the US, the antitrust colonization of countries like Mauritius makes it substantially more difficult for domestic antitrust critics to gain traction. The more countries that adopt US-style antitrust schemes, the more the acts of regulators are treated as “international best practice.” People are even less inclined to examine abuses in the present system or call for reform — to say nothing of abolition.
Colonization also provides a means for expanding the wealth and influence of US antitrust cartel members. As Dr. Ennis demonstrates, an “experienced” antitrust lawyer can easily peddle his services to a friendly foreign government. International antitrust firms quickly flock to any country willing to host them. Incumbent regulators enjoy frequent junkets and “workshops” to teach their new colonies the ways of their masters. It’s a wonderful system for the privileged few.