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

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce A. Blonigen & Benjamin H. Liebman & Wesley W. Wilson, 2007. "Trade Policy and Market Power: The Case of the US Steel Industry," NBER Working Papers 13671, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13671
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chad Bown, 2013. "How Different Are Safeguards from Antidumping? Evidence from US Trade Policies Toward Steel," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 42(4), pages 449-481, June.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Laura Rovegno, 2013. "Trade protection and market power: evidence from US antidumping and countervailing duties," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 149(3), pages 443-476, September.
    2. Blonigen, Bruce A. & Liebman, Benjamin H. & Pierce, Justin R. & Wilson, Wesley W., 2013. "Are all trade protection policies created equal? Empirical evidence for nonequivalent market power effects of tariffs and quotas," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2), pages 369-378.
    3. Davis, J. Scott & Huang, Kevin X.D., 2011. "International real business cycles with endogenous markup variability," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 302-316.
    4. Hepburn, Cameron J. & Quah, John K.-H. & Ritz, Robert A., 2013. "Emissions trading with profit-neutral permit allocations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 85-99.
    5. Bruce A. Blonigen & Benjamin H. Liebman & Justin R. Pierce & Wesley W. Wilson, 2012. "Are all trade policies created equal? empirical evidence for nonequivalent market power effects of tariffs and quotas," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-17, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    6. repec:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/692695 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Robert C. Feenstra & David E. Weinstein, 2017. "Globalization, Markups, and US Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1040-1074.
    8. Bown, Chad & Porto, Guido, 2010. "Exporters in Developing Countries: Adjustment to Foreign Market Access after a Trade Policy Shock," Papers 88, World Trade Institute.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L61 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Metals and Metal Products; Cement; Glass; Ceramics

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