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Trade Policy and Market Power: The Case of the US Steel Industry

  • Bruce A. Blonigen
  • Benjamin H. Liebman
  • Wesley W. Wilson

A primary function of trade policy is to restrict imports to benefit the targeted domestic sector. However, a well-established theoretical literature highlights that the form of trade policy (e.g., quotas versus tariffs) can have a significant impact on how much trade policy affects firms' abilities to price above marginal cost (i.e., market power). The US steel industry provides an excellent example to study these issues, as it has received many different types of trade protection over the past decades. We model the US steel market and then use a panel of data on major steel products from 1980 through 2006 to examine the effects of various trade policies on the steel market. We find that the US steel market is very competitive throughout our sample with the exception of the period in which they received comprehensive voluntary restraint agreements (i.e., quotas) and were able to price substantially above marginal cost. All other forms of protection were in tariff form and had little effect on market power, consistent with prior theoretical literature on the nonequivalence of tariffs and quotas. We also find evidence that market power eroded over time in steel products where mini-mill producers gained sizeable market share, highlighting the role of technology in the market as well.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13671.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13671
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  1. Chad P. Bown, 2004. "How Different Are Safeguards from Antidumping? Evidence from US Trade Policies Toward Steel," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 434, Econometric Society.
  2. Bresnahan, Timothy F., 1989. "Empirical studies of industries with market power," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 17, pages 1011-1057 Elsevier.
  3. Jae W. Chung, 1998. "Effects of U.S. Trade Remedy Law Enforcement under Uncertainty: The Case of Steel," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 151-159, July.
  4. Konings, Jozef & Vandenbussche, Hylke, 2005. "Antidumping protection and markups of domestic firms," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 151-165, January.
  5. Gene M. Grossman, 1984. "Imports as a Cause of Injury: The Case of the U.S. Steel Industry," NBER Working Papers 1494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bruce A. Blonigen & Wesley W. Wilson, 2005. "Foreign Subsidization and Excess Capacity," NBER Working Papers 11798, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Karen Clay & Werner Troesken, 2003. "Further Tests of Static Oligopoly Models: Whiskey, 1882-1898," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(2), pages 151-166, 06.
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  10. Bresnahan, Timothy F., 1982. "The oligopoly solution concept is identified," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 10(1-2), pages 87-92.
  11. Benjamin H. Liebman, 2006. "Safeguards, China, and the Price of Steel," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 142(2), pages 354-373, July.
  12. Konings, Jozef & Springael, Linda & Vandenbussche, Hylke, 2001. "Import Diversion under European Antidumping Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2785, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Thomas J. Prusa, 1996. "The Trade Effects of U.S. Antidumping Actions," NBER Working Papers 5440, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. James Nieberding, 1999. "The Effect of U.S. Antidumping Law on Firms' Market Power: An Empirical Test," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 65-84, February.
  15. Feenstra, Robert C, 1988. "Quality Change under Trade Restraints in Japanese Autos," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(1), pages 131-46, February.
  16. Steven L. Puller, 2007. "Pricing and Firm Conduct in California's Deregulated Electricity Market," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 75-87, February.
  17. Crandall, Robert W., 1996. "From competitiveness to competition : The threat of minimills to large national steel companies," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-2), pages 107-118.
  18. Lenway, Stefanie & Morck, Randall & Yeung, Bernard, 1996. "Rent Seeking, Protectionism and Innovation in the American Steel Industry," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 410-21, March.
  19. Corts, Kenneth S., 1998. "Conduct parameters and the measurement of market power," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 227-250, November.
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