The nations of the Five Eyes alliance have agreed to focus on collusion in international trade. 

The Five Eyes is an intelligence-sharing alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Competition regulators of all five nations have launched a global effort to prevent anti-competitive conduct from occurring in the supply and distribution of goods. 

The Australian Competition & Consumers Commission (ACCC) has formed a new working group with the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Canadian Competition Bureau, NZ Commerce Commission, and UK Competition and Markets Authority.  

They will focus on illegal conduct including collusion in global supply chains, in light of pandemic-induced disruptions that have led to much higher freight rates and more expensive goods for consumers.

“The global freight supply chain is a complex network involving many jurisdictions, so naturally detecting anti-competitive conduct requires strong international partnerships,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“COVID-19 has caused the supply chain disruptions the world is currently experiencing, but the purpose of this working group is to detect any attempts by businesses to use these conditions as a cover to work together and fix prices.

“We will be sharing intelligence to identify any behaviour that restricts or distorts competition, and companies are now on notice that the ACCC and its international counterparts will be ready to act,” Mr Sims said.

Increased demand for containerised cargo and heavy congestion across the global supply chain have caused disruptions and delays to most parts of the economy, from agriculture to health care.

Freight rates on key global trade routes are currently about seven times higher than they were two years ago.

“Australia is an open, trade-exposed economy, and like the other international agencies in this working group, we have a very strong interest in preserving strong competitive markets for global trade,” Mr Sims said.

Types of anti-competitive conduct the working group will be watching for include cartels and any other activities that materially impact competition, such as exclusionary arrangements by firms with market power.