Antitrust for Global Markets

By Murray Weidenbaum. Murray Weidenbaum directs the Center St. Louis. | The Christian Science Monitor, October 25, 1993 | Go to article overview

Antitrust for Global Markets


Murray Weidenbaum. Murray Weidenbaum directs the Center St. Louis., The Christian Science Monitor


THE national governments that write antitrust laws and set rules for the modern corporation are finding themselves on the defensive in the global marketplace. The individual firm now possesses more options in responding to government policies and enforcement practices.

Public-sector departments and agencies are undercut by three factors: the internationalization of production; cross-border flows of information, money, and technology; the rise of the transnational enterprise.

Globalization has a profound impact. For antitrust, tax, and regulatory issues, for example, a firm can move some operations to another country. In a smaller world it is helpful to do business in several countries. Faced with government burdens in one nation, a firm can shift activities to other nations. It can also credibly threaten to do so in order to prevent government actions hostile to its interest.

Acquiring local firms is an important strategy for United States companies positioning themselves with the integrated European market. But the result may be an increase in industrial concentration in the EC. In 1990 alone, Emerson Electric purchased the French firm Leroy-Somer. General Electric acquired Britain's Burton Group Financial Services. American brands bought out Scotland's Whyte & Mackay Distillers, and Scott Paper purchased the Tungram Company of Germany.

To those concerned with the antitrust consequences that may flow from such activity, it is helpful to consider the remarks of a senior Monsanto official: "Although there may be evidence to the contrary, our experience only tells us that you have to be in Europe if you want to do business in Europe."

A word of warning. Weak governments are not the answer to improving the flow of international commerce and investment. For example, inadequate patent-protection laws may constitute an extremely effective trade barrier, even in advanced industrial nations.

It is necessary to update antitrust laws and enforcement to conform more closely to the new global marketplace. Antitrust authorities are grappling with the challenge of reshaping a government policy developed when the largest markets were either national or small. …

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