I just got back from a loooong day of antitrust, competition, and procurement policy panel discussions at The George Washington University Law School. The house was packed with lawyers, professors, students, and reps from government contractors, too. I didn’t shake as many hands as I would have liked, but I left a few business cards and gained a LOT of new vocabulary. There’s no way my brain would let me process all that right now for you, but I’ll leave you with some highlights from my scratch pad:
- Since the government is such a major buyer of services and goods, the (weird, arbitrary, and often illogical) rules it creates for such procurement have a huge impact on the economy.
- Transparency in government has been a hot topic lately, but publishing everything about the entire procurement bidding process can actually foster anticompetitive practices like collusion, bid-rigging, and the creation of cartels. Secrecy is what breeds (constructive) rivalry.
- Over-regulating requirements for bidders also limits competition and innovation.
- The US and Europe are almost complete opposites in how and why they regulate procurement: Americans care about “best value,” while Europeans care about fostering relationships amongst member States.
- However, less than 15% of bids on European projects are accepted by non-nationals. European nations like to keep their projects “at home” whenever possible. In the US, policies encourage foreign direct investment, but procurement policy limits or even excludes foreign companies from bidding on Defense-related projects (for “reasons of national security”).
There are many contradictions at the intersection of antitrust issues and procurement policy. And, lots of interesting vocabulary, which I will share with you next week.