China launches anti-trust review across 80 industries, includes cars, pharmaceuticals

SHANGHAI, June 9 Mon Jun 9, 2014 9:01am EDT

SHANGHAI, June 9 (Reuters) - China has launched a review into potential anti-competitive behaviour across 80 major industries, including autos, pharmaceuticals and alcoholic drinks, a Ministry of Commerce official said on Monday.

The Ministry of Commerce, one of China's three anti-trust regulators, sent a notice to the country's major industry associations last month, asking them to help collect information from their member companies in an anti-monopoly survey, according to a statement on China's automobile dealers' association posted late last week.

The survey, which could take several months, is not targeting any specific industries, but is aimed at eradicating anti-competitive behaviors in all sectors, Qiu Zhongyi, an official at the ministry's market order department, told Reuters. "We're far from reaching any conclusion yet, but it's possible that the situation is more severe in some industries, such as auto," he said.

Beijing last year stepped up a crackdown on anti-trust practices. The Commerce Ministry's review is part of a campaign launched last December targeting practices that hinder free market competition, such as setting up protectionist policies against companies from other cities and provinces, and granting unfair subsidies.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the China's price regulator, has already punished companies in sectors ranging from milk powder to eye glasses for breaching anti-trust laws.

China's vice-premier Ma Kai in March, for example, called on local governments to eradicate local protectionism and promote fair competition around electric cars, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Shanghai, before February, only subsidised electric cars satisfying criteria such as the ability to reach 50 km/hour in 6 seconds, met only by models from Shanghai-based SAIC and Shanghai Zhongke Lifan Electric Vehicle Co Ltd.

In Beijing, the inability to obtain license plates for e-cars prior to February meant the BAIC E150 of local maker BAIC Motor Corp Ltd came up against limited competition.

Last August, an official at China Automobile Dealers Association told Reuters that the association had been collecting data on the price of all foreign cars sold in China for the National Development and Reform Commission. (Reporting by Samuel Shen and Kazunori Takada. Editing by Jane Merriman)