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

By Jack N. Behrman; J. J. Boddewyn et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction to Part II

The prior section is addressed to the problems of formation and use of a governmental relations function within the international company. Once the company has prepared itself appropriately and has adequate information concerning a given problem abroad, it still faces the decision of whether to call upon the U.S. government for assistance, to merely inform the U.S. Embassy or the Department of State of any problem arising, to approach the host government directly, or to let the matter drop. Decisions to adopt any one of these approaches will be taken in the light of the presumed effectiveness of intervention and the significance of the problem itself.

The significance of the problem, of course, depends on the particular circumstances, but if the State Department or the U.S. Embassy is to be asked for assistance, the conclusion will be that the problem is too big, complex, or serious in its impact to be handled alone. Or, the embassy will be called upon if it is deemed that it has a capacity to alter the solution favorably, which the company does not. (What the company perceives in terms of embassy capacity or willingness may not always match its actual capacity or willingness, however.)

A decision merely to inform the embassy (or the State Department) will derive from a conclusion that the company, while not needing assistance now, may desire help in the future and should prepare the way by involving the embassy at least to the extent of informing it of developments. There is an assumption that the embassy can and will be of help later, if needed.

A decision to approach the host government directly will be made when the effectiveness of the embassy is considered to be low compared to that of the company officials, or when the problem is so insignificant as not to bother embassy officials. Alternatively, of course, the issue may be highly significant and of such a critical nature that the company does not want to identify itself with the U.S. government in any way, and thus deals directly with the host government.

Finally, a decision not to engage in any kind of dialogue concerning an issue means that the company considers the outcome proposed by the host government as inevitable; or that it cannot influence the outcome by any reasonable action on its part, nor can the U.S. Embassy; or that the matter is too insignificant to spend any time on.

No one decision need be final; it can be reversed at any time within the duration of a given problem if significance or effectiveness changes.

Conversely, the host government must make decisions as to how to handle a particular issue between itself and an international company, and whether to involve or permit involvement of the embassy. The alternatives facing a government agency or official are to accept embassy representation, to accept an offer of mediation by the embassy, to accept or reject company representation

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