Trade and Payments in Western Europe: A Study in Economic Cooperation, 1947-51

By William Diebold Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
CARTELS

"EVEN United States officials long familiar with Europe have been shocked at the extent to which private groups have stepped in to regiment European business during the past year as public controls have been lifted or have withered away."1 Thus, reporting in the fall of 1949, Michael Hoffman posed one of the most troublesome problems of European economic cooperation. The basic issues are simple. The difficulties arise in determining the detailed facts at any given moment and, above all, in deciding what to do about them.

For several decades before the Second World War, many sectors of Western Europe's economy were bound up in varying degrees by national or international private business arrangements. Restrictive practices, the entrepreneurial attitudes behind them, and the political and social milieu that permitted their extensive use were partly responsible for the slow pace of economic progress in Western Europe during the 'twenties and 'thirties. Cartel practices were renewed after the war. Public data are inadequate to show how extensive they are now or precisely what impact they have on the European economy. As a French official put it: "Trade and professional associations are all in league against the con- sumer, but it is almost impossible to put your finger on the trouble because most of these agreements in restraint of trade are not recorded."2

Private trade barriers take many forms: price-fixing agreements, allocation of markets (either territorially or by products), limitations on production, refusal to do business except

____________________
1
The New York Times, November 22, 1949.
2
Same, July 30, 1951.

-280-

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