There is a vast literature on international business, but multinational trading companies rarely feature in it. Researchers in international business remain preoccupied with manufacturing and, especially, with its high-technology sector, even though services are now by far the most important sector for multinationals. In the history of multinational business, trading companies have played an especially significant and strategic role, which continues until the present day, when Japan’s sogo shosha and giant commodity traders feature among the world’s largest global businesses. This book assembles a uniquely international and interdisciplinary team of leading scholars to assert the importance of trading companies in international business. The authors include specialists in business history, economics and international business and work at universities in France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In order to ensure that the volume was coherent, preliminary versions of chapters were presented at a conference held at the Centre for International Business History at the University of Reading, UK, in September 1997. The conference was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under Grant No. R006235612. The conference was attended by thirty participants from many countries and their contributions to the discussions have played a major role in the final versions of the chapters presented here. Ph.D. candidates Kenichi Ando, Helen Carrier and Laura Stanciu were especially helpful in the administration of this conference. In preparing the book for publication, Ann Prior has language-edited several chapters, while Margaret Gallagher has undertaken a great deal of word processing in order to get the manuscript into shape.
Reading, January 1998