Juristische Fakultät

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National Champions in Economic Policy Considerations

The creation and protection of internationally viable and dominant firms, viz. national champions, is a matter of constant debate within the EU and across the Atlantic as well as in China and other countries of the world. While consensus has been reached on many subjects of the global commercial order, such as the stability of financial markets, a transparent and fair tax regime, as well as workable competition, there is no clearly prevailing line of thought on the welfare effects of national champions. In various contexts, the debate has gained traction recently. The European Commission, for example, has blocked the proposed Siemens/Alstom merger, which was intended to create a pan-European railway super-firm. In the aftermath of this decision, the German and the French government have expounded ideas to redesign elements of European competition law. The creation of national or pan-European champions is considered an end in itself which shall not be hampered by the restraints of antitrust law, so one argument goes. Similar questions arise with respect to the proposed merger of Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank. While the firms argue that these transactions will increase their relevance on the international markets, regulators are concerned about the risk that potential economic efficiencies might be offset by systemic risks that come with the concentration of assets. Finally, the necessity to redesign the rules for the international allocation of taxing rights due to an ever-increasing mobility of production factors and the rise of the digital economy urgently demands from governments all around the world an answer to the question of whether – and how far – the interests of national champions should be part of future tax treaty policy.


These examples highlight the political relevance of the debate on national champions. They demonstrate the demand for more research in this field. Core questions lay at the intersection of law, economics, and ethics: Is there a default welfare standard by which the expedience of the creation of national champions can be gauged? If so, is it possible, from an ethical perspective, to increase producer rents at the expense of a concomitant reduction in consumer rents? How can geopolitical interests be weighed against consumer interests that legitimately relate to effective competition and diversified financial risks? How can it be ensured that such intricate balancing exercises associated with the creation of national champions have sufficient democratic legitimization?