Biden Order Seeks to Invigorate Competition Across U.S. Industry

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President Joe Biden will sign a sweeping executive order designed to promote competition across American industries in a ceremony at the White House on Friday.

The president’s action will prompt the federal government to set new regulations on everything from airline luggage fees to non-compete clauses. He will sign the order after delivering remarks on the American economy, according to a public schedule released by the White House.

“The overarching objective with this executive order is to make sure the president is encouraging competition in industries around the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

While the drafting and implementation of new rules and regulations may take months and will be largely handled by individual departments and agencies, the White House has made clear it expects that the executive order could lead to significant changes that entail a major impact on several industries.

One element of the order would ask the Justice Department to work with regulatory agencies against foreign-owned shipping alliances and monopolized rail routes that the administration believes have driven up shipping costs nationwide. Railroad shares tumbled on the news, lagging broader U.S. market indexes. Kansas City Southern, which is in merger talks with Canadian National Railway Co., paced the selloff with a decline of as much as 8.7%, the worst intraday slump since April 2020.

“It doesn’t sound right to most people that there are three shipping companies that are dominating the market and upping and increasing costs for suppliers, small businesses, people across the country,” Psaki said.

The executive order will also encourage the Federal Trade Commission to ban or limit non-compete agreements and ban unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions, according to a person familiar with the plans. The administration will in addition look to strengthen antitrust guidance in a bid to prevent employers from collaborating to suppress wages or reduce benefits by sharing compensation information with each other.

The White House is also expected to ask the FTC to issue new rules encouraging a “right-to-repair” in a bid to keep companies from restricting consumers’ ability to use independent repair shops or do it themselves. The action could potentially affect everything from farm equipment manufacturers who require tractors to be serviced at dealerships to technology giants like Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., who limit repair work on mobile phones and game consoles.

The order is also expected to include a number of other actions designed to bolster the agriculture industry, including new rules that make it easier for cow, pig, and poultry farmers to sue large processors if they are underpaid or retaliated against. Biden’s action will also call on the Agriculture Department to update current “Product of USA” labeling rules to restrict companies from labeling food produced overseas as American-made even if it was processed domestically.

The president will direct the Transportation Department to issue new rules demanding that airlines quickly refund fees if passengers’ luggage doesn’t arrive on time or if in-flight wireless internet does not operate properly, economic adviser Brian Deese told reporters last week.

The effort is designed to drive “greater competition in the economy, in service of lower prices for American families and higher wages for American workers,” Deese said.

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