A HISTORY OF THE PAN-PACIFIC COAL TRADE FROM THE 1950S TO 2011: EXPLORING THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF A BUYING CARTEL

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Abstract

Since the early 1960s, the Pan-Pacific coal trade has underpinned East Asia's industrial development. While the genesis of this trade lay in investment decisions by United States-based companies that pioneered exports from Australian and western Canadian mines, its development was largely shaped by the strategies of the Japanese steel mills who acted as a buying cartel. By the early 1980s, this cartel had engineered an oversupplied market characterised by constantly falling prices. By 2001, however, this strategy proved counterproductive, as exports of coking coal in particular were concentrated in the hands of an oligopoly of super-efficient producers that drove up prices.

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