Iron and steel production in Argentina c.1920-1952 : attempts at establishing a strategic industry
This thesis examines the political economy of the initial development of the Argentine iron and steel industry between circa 1920 and 1952. It analyses the reasons for the failure of those initiatives and shows that the main impetus to establish the industry was provided by the Second World War, not the Great Depression. The thesis accounts for the adverse impact of domestic factors such as the predominance of military strategic demands over business considerations, inadequate national supplies of raw materials, output bottlenecks, demand constraints and the politics of the period which frustrated policy continuity. The unfavourable effects of the international conjuncture are also assessed. These include the role of the International Steel Cartel in inhibiting the growth of domestic iron and steel production through a web of controls prior to 1939, and wartime constraints and the US embargo which limited access to essential capital goods and technology thereby frustrating positive incentives for the development of heavy industry. For most of the period, Argentina was one of the few 'open' markets for iron and steel products. The depth of the market and its ability to sustain domestic production is assessed through three case-product studies: rails, construction materials and rural implements. The research shows that demand was associated with traditional economic sectors. Organisational structures also frustrated development. The thesis proves that the history of the sector was characterised by organisational instability: a small number of ephemeral firms specialised in the production of a small number of items. Attempts to foster efficiency through large-scale integrated industrialisation involving State and private capital in a mixed corporation failed because the project was tailored to security rather than market requirements.