The Swiss constitution sets forth the key principle providing that economic regulatory policies must be in accordance with the concept of a free market economy. It commits the state not to implement any measures or regulations directed against competition, and it protects the market from cartels and other private restrictions of competition. This legal protection of competition constitutes the focus of Professor Nicolas Diebold’s research and teaching activities.
Under a holistic approach, competition law comprises all legal fields protecting competition from private and governmental restrictions, including economic integration on a multilateral and regional level, Swiss internal market and procurement law as well as sector regulations. The research work undertaken by Nicolas Diebold and his team focuses on principles of law such as the “Cassis de Dijon”-principle or the principle of non-discrimination, designed to achieve balance between competition and other public interests such as sustainability, social policy, public service and consumer protection.
International Economic Relations
International trade is governed by a variety of international treaties to which Switzerland is a party. Switzerland’s export economy enjoys non-discriminatory access to global markets due to the trade agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the same time, Switzerland has committed not to protect its domestic markets and to facilitate imports from other WTO-Members. The law of the WTO is one of Professor Diebold’s key areas of expertise.
Over the past years, negotiations on trade liberalization have become more and more difficult on a multilateral level and countries are increasingly falling back on regional and bilateral treaties: for example, the EU and the USA are negotiating a transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP. Switzerland is linked to more than 30 other countries in a network of free trade agreements, and has concluded a politically and legally complex set of treaties with the EU. These regional and bilateral economic agreements are also a focal point of Nicolas Diebold’s research and teaching activities.
General Competition Law
In addition to foreign economic law, Nicolas Diebold’s team also conducts research in the areas of domestic competition law. Barriers to trade and competition not only occur on an international level, but also within the Swiss domestic market on an inter-cantonal and even inter-communal level. For instance, public contracts are preferably attributed to domestic companies rather than put out to public tender. Diverging cantonal or communal regulations in sectors such as taxis, security, health and construction result in isolated markets, and new and innovative business models such as UBER run the risk of being nipped in the bud by regulatory obstacles. Competition law protects the market from such interference and distortion through public and private actors.