FOUL PLAY OR FAIR GAME?
For over a decade there has been increasing concern and discussion of how companies based in the United States have taken a beating from companies based in East Asia--initially and primarily Japan, but now including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and, perhaps, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The industries surrendered to the East Asian wave include shipbuilding, automobiles, steel, VCRs, TVs, cameras and electronic chips. Composite materials, information technology, entertainment, communications and even services currently appear to be the target industries. 1
Obviously, this systematic conquest of major industries has shocked both companies whose markets have been directly attacked as well as those who fear they could be next on the "hit list." Another affected group has been the workers rendered jobless by the success of foreign competitors. These two powerful constituencies, defeated companies and upset workers, combined in the face of a common threat, have often spurred governmental action such as "voluntary" restrictions in auto imports, sanctions against dumping of electronic chips, and so on. The general reasoning underlying such a response has been that conditions in the foreign firms' home nations combined to give them an unfair advantage. For example, the argument goes, Japanese automakers benefitted from many aspects of Japanese business conditions which were not available to U.S. automakers--lower labor costs, lack of pollution controls, cultural tendencies to group cohesion and loyalty, the government's co-