U.S. President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to promote competition in the U.S. economy for the benefit of consumers.
In remarks before signing the order Friday at the White House, Biden said the measure “commits the federal government to full and aggressive enforcement of our antitrust laws.”
A major U.S. business group criticized the initiative as heavy-handed government intervention in the private sector.
The order requires a dozen federal agencies to manage 72 initiatives aimed at decreasing anticompetitive practices in a multitude of economic sectors.
Biden said, “I’m a proud capitalist. … Let me be very clear: Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.”
“Without healthy competition, big players can change and charge whatever they want. And treat you however they want. And for too many Americans, that means accepting a bad deal.”
Areas of focus
The order targets corporate monopolies and directs antitrust agencies to concentrate their enforcement activities on agriculture, labor, health care and technology industries.
A White House fact sheet says the order “will lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth” while helping to offset decades of accelerating consolidation among corporations.
“In over 75% of U.S. industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did 20 years ago. This is true across health care, financial services, agriculture and more,” the fact sheet says. “That lack of competition drives up prices for consumers.”
Among other actions, the order directs the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to scrutinize mergers that limit opportunities for small businesses.
The order also calls for the Federal Communications Commission to promote net neutrality, which was rolled back under the Trump administration.
Acting FCC Chairperson Jessica Rosenworcel welcomed the order, saying in a statement, “Our economy thrives on competition. It is the reason the United States is home to some of the most dynamic companies in the world.”
Chamber offers criticism
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a prominent business advocacy group, criticized the order, saying it “smacks of a ‘government knows best’ approach to managing the economy.”
The group said it would “vigorously oppose calls for government-set prices, onerous and legally questionable rulemakings, efforts to treat innovative industries as public utilities, and the politicization of antitrust enforcement.”
A labor union representing workers in food and health industries, the United Food and Commercial Workers, praised the order, saying it “sends a clear message that this White House is committed to creating a level playing field for American workers.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.