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Antitrust and the competitive structure of the U.S. pulp and paper industry, 1950-1990

Toivanen, Hannes (2005): Antitrust and the competitive structure of the U.S. pulp and paper industry, 1950-1990.

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National antitrust policies have potentially profound effects on global competitiveness of individual industries. Public policy interventions affecting organizational arrangements within industries, enforcement of commodity standardization, and price competition, as well as the regulation of intellectual property rights, are the major tools by which Government executes antitrust policies. This study documents the frequency, extent, and impact of U.S. antitrust policies toward the pulp and paper industry between 1950 and 1990.

Passage of the Celler-Kefauver Antimerger Act in 1950 marked the beginning of a new antitrust experience across the whole U.S. economy. Yet, the application of the Act required government to forge industry specific standards of competitive structure. The antitrust experience of the pulp and paper industry, and its distinct segments, was particularly industry specific when it came to the enforcement of Celler-Kefauver Act and its consequences. Between 1950 and 1990, antitrust disadvantaged pulp and paper firms whose competitive strategy was based on regional or product specialization. As in other industries, antitrust appeared to encourage successful and growth-seeking paper firms to diversify into new areas of business. Unlike in other industries, successful pulp and paper firms relatively rarely undertook so-called conglomerate mergers, and preferred to diversify and expand into other segments of the forests products industry. In the context of pulp and paper industry, new incentive structures that emanated from antitrust facilitated the rise of large scale forests products giants that resembled each other in terms of strategy and structure.

Antitrust between 1950 and 1990 shaped significantly the competitive structure of the U.S. pulp and paper industry, and probably transformed traditional arrangements for technological learning and the course of technological innovation. Industry’s recent performance and contemporary global competitiveness outlook cannot be understood without reference to its post-World War II antitrust experience.

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