How Can We Take the U.S. Barriers Down?
Euphoria over the freedom of 100 million Warsaw Pact citizens will continue for many years. The physical walls have come down; the economic walls are rapidly being removed between many Eastern European countries and their Western European neighbors. And there is significant progress between some of the Eastern European countries and the United States toward establishing economic trade relations.
The real barriers, however, will take years to remove. How do you eradicate 45 years of a system that defies free enterprise, entrepreneurship and all that the free world stands for?
How do you conduct business in a country without a banking system? Without stable currency or an infrastructure? How do you deal with and relate to people who have absolutely no incentive to excel or to work?
But the most difficult problem may not be in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe at all: It may be right here in the United States. The most stubborn barrier to trade with the Soviet bloc may be American apathy. The majority of U.S. exporting is done by less than 100 U.S. companies. Where then are the remainder of the Fortune 500? Who is responsible for the rest of our exports?
It is estimated that approximately 9 percent of U.S. citizens carry passports. The number of U.S. manufacturers doing any exporting is about the same percentage. I will leave it to your own imagination to determine how these percentages compare with those of our European allies.
It is true that the normalization of relations with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites will lay severe economic burden on Western European countries. Economically, these countries are third world nations. Our U.S. banking system already is burdened with Latin American debt, and there is probably little enthusiasm to take on more debt from the USSR.
The environmental problems of these Eastern bloc nations are perhaps the most severe in the world. The Western European countries, however, will be anxious to help solve these problems for their own protection. Their concerns must be more heartfelt than the discussions that continue between the United States and Canada over acid rain.
The entire change in the world power structure that we have witnessed will probably delay implementation of the European Common Market's programs, currently scheduled to be in place by Dec. 31, 1992. But in the long run, both the Europeans of the East and the West will be the beneficiaries of foreign trade and economic recovery. The result will be the most powerful economic trading alliance the world has ever seen.
Nothing happens quickly in international trade, particularly as it relates to international trade by the United States. Multiplex Co. management feels that, typically, it takes us three to five years to get to a breakeven point when we enter a new country. …