International Business-Government Communications: U.S. Structures, Actors, and Issues

By Jack N. Behrman; J. J. Boddewyn et al. | Go to book overview
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The Department of State has been questioning for several years the role that the multinational enterprise and other emerging forms of international business would and should play in the formation of foreign policies of the United States. It has proven quite difficult to come to grips with the policy implications of a structure of business that cannot be segmented according to functions, but cannot be treated as an aggregated whole either. A variety of functional activities-exports, imports, taxation, pricing, competition patterns, investment, disinvestment, technology transfers and licensing, etc.--are conducted by the same company but are under the surveillance of quite different agencies of the U.S. government. There is greater coordination of these activities within the international companies than there is within the U.S. governmental agencies concerned with them.

Further, U.S. policy tends to be formed on an overall basis rather than on a disaggregation of dissimilar types of activities-that is, policy distinctions are not made among extraction, manufacturing, and services nor within these sectors according to the impacts of specific operations abroad. It is difficult to formulate appropriate policies unless the diverse effects of business operations are taken into account.

For this reason, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research asked for a study of the ways U.S. businesses abroad interact with U.S. embassies and with host governments thereby potentially impinging on the formation of U.S. foreign policy. It has not been possible to cover all types of activities, so it was agreed that we should concentrate on the largest segment--manufacturing. We recognize that the conclusions drawn will not necessarily apply to other sectors or to all countries.

To obtain our information base, we traveled to some twenty-five countries-- from Algeria to Zambia and within Latin America, Europe, Africa, the Mid-East, South Asia, and the Far East. We interviewed general managers of companies and banks, consultants, Washington representatives of companies, embassy officials, host government officials, and officials in the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, amassing some fifteen hundred pages of interview notes plus other materials. In addition, we interviewed officials of the parent companies, of which more than thirty cooperated with the study and some half-dozen provided extensive introductions to their general managers around the world. We chose these few so as to make certain that we had a fairly clear picture of their worldwide network of activities and information flow on external affairs, rather than trying to piece together bits and snatches from a larger number of companies. Adding this more intensive picture to the extensive interviews of a larger variety of companies, we felt certain that we acquired a fairly accurate picture of what is going on in government-business relations.


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International Business-Government Communications: U.S. Structures, Actors, and Issues


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