Competition and imports in the European market
Theoretical and empirical research suggests that import competition within European markets imposes a major constraint on domestic firms's price-cost margins. The programme for the completion of the European Community's (EC) internal market by 1992 is largely based on the effects expected from a reinforcement of such a constraint. But imports from the rest of the world could also exercise an important trade discipline on European market performance. In fact there are various arguments suggesting that the disciplinary effect of extra-EC imports could be stronger than that of intra-EC imports. The paper develops an empirical model to measure the relative strength of import discipline on price-cost margins in European industries. We find that both potential and actual competition induced by imports are effective in narrowing such margins. Furthermore, trade discipline varies not only according to various features of industry but also according to the origin of imports: only extra-EC imports were found to exercise a significant impact on price-cost margins.
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