Biden creates new competition role on National Economic Council

The aim is to tackle anticompetition in sectors, including agriculture
calendar icon 19 July 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

President Joe Biden has created a new role on the National Economic Council (NEC) to tackle anticompetitive business practices, naming NEC member Hannah Garden-Monheit as Director of Competition Council Policy, Reuters reported, citing the White House on Tuesday.

Garden-Monheit, a former US trial attorney with experience in the private sector, told Reuters she would forge ahead with Biden's executive order on competition and work with the council's 18 members on new initiatives.

Biden created the council as part of an executive order two years ago to crack down on anticompetitive practices in sectors from agriculture to drugs and labor, and find ways to lower prices for consumers.

"We're going to use all the tools that we have to take targeted actions where we can," Garden-Monheit said. She said she would work with Congress to curb anticompetitive practices in agriculture, while seeking new focal areas.

She said the White House was ready to build on successes in meatpacking, ocean shipping and consumer junk fees, but declined to identify fresh targets ahead of Wednesday's fifth council meeting.

One may be the retail sector, which National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard singled out last October before leaving her job as Federal Reserve vice chair, arguing it had "ample room" to "recompress margins" after COVID-19 price hikes.

Biden ran for president in 2020 on a major reset of the US economy, and attacks on corporate greed and power are a centrepiece of his administration.

Industry has chafed at the increased oversight, with the US Chamber of Commerce saying the panel should be called the "Washington Mismanaging the Economy Council" and accusing the Biden administration of "regulatory overreach."

But some moves have found strong bipartisan support in Congress, including steps to crack down on corporate airline and banking fees, to lower the cost of insulin and to make hearing aids more affordable.

Morgan Harper, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official now with the American Economic Liberties Project, said Biden's creation of the new post was a "really good sign."

"It means that the executive order was not just a one-off," she said. "Institutionalizing competition policy within the National Economic Council and the White House is another critical step ... to make sure we right the wrongs of failed antitrust enforcement and competition policy enforcement for the last several decades."

Columbia University Professor Timothy Wu, who led the White House antitrust push until December, said Biden's decision to create a specific role centered on the competition council reflected its importance.

"Creating a White House director of competition policy is a big deal — it cements the White House role in antitrust policy and ensures a lasting impact," he said.

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