The Relational and Structural Power of the EU in Competition Policy: Addressing Asymmetry

Hikaru Yoshizawa

Although there is a wide consensus among academics and practitioners that EU competition policy has non-negligible external implications, actual assessments of the power of the EU in this field varies significantly according to one’s definition of power. Arguably, the existing literature puts too much emphasis on the exercise of coercive measures in individual competition cases and therefore over-evaluates the power of the EU. This paper addresses asymmetry between the relational and structural aspects of the Union employing both quantitative and qualitative data.

EU competition policy has solid legal basis and is highly supranational. Power sources of the Union are not only its large market size but also its comprehensive law with extraterritorial reach, considerable agency capacity and ability to act cohesively externally. Quantitative data underlines remarkable regulatory activities of the EU even against third-country based firms despite its relatively limited resources. Besides, an analysis of controversial trans-Atlantic cases, namely Boeing-McDonnell Douglas and GE-Honeywell indicates that the EU is increasingly acting as a single block against third states. In contrast to these pieces of evidence illustrating the EU’s enormous relational power comparable to the US’s, observations on EU structural power provide a moderate picture. In fact, the structural power of the EU is visible but not as strong as that of the US in terms of designing of multilateral institutions, and global standard-setting. Overall, only by recognizing this asymmetry between relational and structural aspects can we start to produce fruitful debate over EU regulatory power in competition policy on the global stage.

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This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.