Tariffs Can Be Good

Tariffs Can Be Useful

Michael R. Czinkota

President Trump has announced tariffs against steel and aluminum imports to help domestic industries long suffering from import pressure. Pundits have bemoaned these steps as inappropriate and precursors to a trade war. But other dimensions in play make these announcements useful.

Shifts in policy and diplomatic direction are implemented with great difficulty in Washington. Bureaucrats typically far outlast their current team of policy makers. It is therefore quite difficult for a well-intentioned appointee to implement change and witness its result.

Trade is only one of the economic components of government, and just one section of many policy parameters. New policy makers go through all the same motions as those before them, the initial touching of base, the mutual assurances of collaboration, and the plans to develop a joint vision.

But, little if anything happens. Things just chug along without new outcomes. More time brings new issues which take priority over earlier pressing concerns. Existing trade structures may eventually become acceptable to many leaders, which makes changing them even more difficult.

Shifts of global issues are slow in coming. To speed things up and to get results, there has to be a spotlight. Issues have to affect a number of important countries simultaneously, and lie on the surface of the policy cauldron.

For progress to occur different issue trade-offs between countries have to be possible. There has to be some “give” in exchange of some “take”. Governments have to decide whether their greatest preoccupation lies with economies that “grow”, that “make”, that “create” or that “coordinate”, and then place their negotiating chips accordingly. There has to be timing immediacy to move things along and to have government leaders and their bureaucracies address, analyze, understand and endorse changes. For all this, there needs to be an anvil focus.

The tariffs open the world outlook onto a new direction: they command attention from all trading partners; they require a specific response instead of the typical speechwriter niceties. New thoughts on the purpose and capability of trade can lead to an active re-analysis of policy steps and agreements.

Much of today’s trade understanding has been in place since the international institutions of Bretton Woods were formed in 1944. Surely, after 74 years, policy makers, firms, their long range planners, and academics should be able to come up with some helpful innovations.

All this is likely to precipitate shifts, adjustments, and new conditions. There will be new global actions and perhaps even entirely new paths and expectations for both international and domestic business transactions, lifestyles and relationships.

Change will lead to adjustment. Maybe there will be more domestic vacations, shorter college times, fewer flowers in winter, more eating of white asparagus, and more living within extended families. We just might wind up with adaptations  which make society more productive and life more pleasant.

As President Trump’s announcements and communications capture the attention of world leaders, they can astutely trigger progress and new approaches. Recognizing that a crisis could happen tends to clear the mind.

The benefit of the tariff announcements depends on the new processes and changes which they trigger. Then the threat of tariffs can be a useful means to an end. Strong admonishment with flexible rescission can make all boats rise.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).




(Fourth in a series)

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

In light of the limited empirical research of terrorism effects on the internartional activities by firms, we undertook a two-phased exploratory investigation. First, we conducted qualitative interviews with internationally-active firms on terrorism to develop a broad understanding of what companies and managers see as the key salient issues. We also conducted discussions, generally 45 to 60 minutes in length, via telephone and at company sites, with senior managers of  nine firms with extensive international operations. These interviews provided a clearer picture of managers’ concerns about and response to terrorism, and facilitated the creation of a survey used in the second phase of our research.

Respondents worried about interruptions of supply chains, distribution channels, and logistics due to terrorism. Concerns also focused on the trustworthiness and reliability of foreign suppliers and intermediaries exposed to terrorism. Attention also rested on corporate capabilities which allow firms to prepare for potential disruptions and delays due to terrorism, and keep resources available to protect from and counteract terrorism.

The second phase of our research was an online survey of a sample of international firms headquartered in the United States but active in many countries around the world. The survey aimed to validate earlier findings, to better understand perceptions about terrorism, and to assist with the planning and responses that managers are undertaking when confronted with terrorism.

The unit of analysis was the firm. For standardization purposes, company resources were assessed as ‘annual revenues per employee’, where total annual revenues were divided by number of employees for each firm. We used 5-point Likert scales.

In conducting the survey, we collaborated with a large trade association and its members. About one-third of the group’s 8,000 members are engaged in international marketing. We sent all members an e-mail and requested members active in international marketing to complete the questionnaire at a separate website. This approach ensured responses from a relatively random sample of U.S. firms engaged in international marketing. Results were received from 551 member firms, a response rate of about 21% considered acceptable for unsolicited research participation.  We then selected firms active in manufacturing (as opposed to services) in order to focus on companies working in the international marketing of physical goods.  This step resulted in a final sample size of 151 manufacturing firms engaged in international marketing.

To achieve research robustness, we assessed respondent representativeness in two ways: A wave analysis compared the scores from a sample of early respondents to those in a sample of late respondents.  Second, we compared randomly chosen samples of responding and nonresponding firms.  In both cases, the tested variables did not reveal any significant differences between samples thus, nonresponse bias was not expected to affect study results. Moderated regression analysis was used to assess the research hypotheses.  We found normal probability distribution and no outlier observations, suggesting no violation of the normality assumption.

In internationalizing firms, it appears that the threat or occurrence of terrorism is associated with immediate increases in international marketing costs and with disruptions in international supply chains.  Management becomes likely to include terrorism as a detrimental factor in international marketing planning, and in the design of global distribution channels.

Finally, the more resources held by the firm, the more willingly terrorism and its repercussions will be recognized. The trend appears to be that particularly among informed and wealthy firms a terrorism presence creates early and significant corporate responses. Terrorism seems to be a key causal factor in fomenting poverty much more so than poverty creating terrorism.

A significant insight!

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).

A World without international marketing?

A World without international marketing?

-Michael R. Czinkota

 Sometimes we only know what we lost when it has left us. I put this thought to the test it in my class of Georgetown University students. In our course “Marketing Across Borders”, we worked on the question: “What would life look like without international marketing?”. The answers offered various perspectives reflecting their interest and training in international affairs. The range was broad, addressing the impact of international marketing in the context of diversity, choices, cultural exchange, and international quality standards.

            On a personal level, students saw substantial impact of international marketing on their lives. Some mentioned that international marketing and its activities creates thousands of jobs around the world.This was seen as highly relevant to themselves, but they included their parents as well since such a change clearly involved today and the future. Some students said that without International Marketing a life would be simpler but not necessarily in a good way. International Marketing was seen to bring to life a variety of products that enrich consumers and make them more productive.

Some respondents highlighted the exposure to new thoughts and ideas that International Marketing brings to people around the world. Such exposure motivates the competition between companies to supply better quality combined with better value. This competition leads to innovation in products across different markets around the world. Without International Marketing, the high quality standards we have today would diminish due to decreasing competition.

            Companies would also feel  the absence of International Marketing. Expansion across borders will be harder and would have to rely without marketing heavily on word of mouth communication. Exports and imports will be far less than today’s value since international activities will be less profitable. Selling products to other cultures in which they are not interested will be difficult. Companies will have fewer opportunities to learn and develop from others as well. Problems will be caused by a lack of willingness to adjust or a lack of motivation to develop and compete. In consequence, the world won’t be as efficient as today.

            There was the hypothesis that International Marketing is likely to reduce poverty and increase international cooperation. These benefits would disappear when foreign direct investment decreases. Sales in foreign markets would diminish without the lubricating effect of international marketing. Less cultural awareness of others would be the consequence of a decline in intercultural communication. Companies would be less socially responsible and transparent as they won’t be inspired by other international companies who serve international communities. This would newly insert more psychic distance between cultures and countries, and reduce the attention paid to common problems and actions taken for the public good.

            Finally, we explored what students would miss most, where does the pain threshold begin: We know about the wide variety of products that are moved and brought to market thanks to marketing. So how about the loss of video games, cars, music tourism or even commercials. These items were touched on, but the core of items one would miss the most were Food, Food, and Food again.  Students were quite varied in their thinking as long as the items whose loss was deplored dealt with sustenance or alimentation. Leading among products held dear were chocolate, snacks, noodles, candies and anything else which could be eaten by chopstick. Quite a broad base from students whose parents were only introduced to new eating utensils. Food and its variety tend to give staying power to globalization and also encourage cross fertilization. Let it give new opportunity to a life with spice.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).




(Third in a series)

Valbona Zeneli, Marshall Center, Germany

Michael R. Czinkota , Georgetown University USA and University of Kent, UK

Gary Knight, Willamette University, USA

The scientific approach is largely driven by hypotheses  which are analyzed as to their likelihood of being acceptable, true and robust. We present thoughts on the odds and consequences of relationships between international marketing and terrorism. We suggest arms length and reliable insights which improve our contextual understanding and decision making. Here are several hypotheses which we postulate are associated with terrorism and corporate action.

First are increases in Marketing Costs, accompanied by disruptions of supply chains. Interruptions in global supply chains tend to cause shortages or delays of critical inputs, which affect corporate strategies and performance, shrink shareholder value, and reduce the  consumption of goods and services. Perhaps the entire “just in time” production processes of a firm and its supply chain may need to be reconfigured.  Increased security measures heighten the complexity of motion which increases costs. Contextual volatility raises the cost of coordination, as suppliers and distributors devote more resources to environmental scanning, information processing, and negotiating with their suppliers for synchronized responses to rapid changes within all affected organizations.

For marketing planning, design, and organization we believe that an increase in the threat or occurrence of terrorism, makes management select its risk as a salient factor in the firm’s international marketing planning, supply chain management and organization of global distribution channels. To develop business strategies which minimize the firm’s exposure, managers tend to avoid direct investment and to require higher returns on investment.  Exports can rise but with higher cost assessments for the development of new infrastructure in terrorism-prone areas.  Terrorism also appears to depress buyer psychology and consumption.

International Experience plays a major role in the firm’s marketing planning, and the design and organization of the firm’s global distribution channels. The acquisition, interpretation and distribution of knowledge are critical for optimizing performance of global supply chains, and achieving superior resilience  and market share. Reducing the firm’s risk due to unfamiliarity with a market, also called the “liability of foreignness”, pays off by decreasing market operational uncertainties, and shrinking  surprises. It pays off to be on site,  a motto which argues for  multi-dexterity in international strategy.  Substantial experience in numerous foreign markets is greater than the sum of its parts, and becomes a strategic asset when a firm must confront terrorism in its global operations.

Organizational Resources of the firm affect its competitive advantage. They can strengthen assets such as in-house knowledge, skilled personnel, superior strategies, and financial reserves. The ability of firms to succeed in light of international business adversity is largely a function of the resources available to explore alternatives.

Resource-restricted firms face greater challenges to create a solid business foundation by researching foreign markets and potential partners.  Conversely, well-resourced firms have a greater capacity to undertake international ventures that will perform well. Therefore, we expect that firms with comparatively abundant resources will be better positioned to undertake sophisticated international marketing preparations. They can incorporate the environmentatl contingencies of terrorism into their planning, their development of supply chains, and their distribution channels, all key components of international success.

Michael Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th ed., CENGAGE).


St. Valentine’s Day – More than dates and roses

St.Valentine’s Day – more than dates and roses

Michael R. Czinkota

For centuries St. Valentine has been the patron of love and lovers, providing individuals with the nudge to move a relationship forward. International shipments of red roses have enriched the economies of Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya by hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the time to revisit Valentine’s Day as to its meaning and make plans to restructure its impact.

Valentine’s Day has already undergone significant expansion. Its celebration has grown from a small parish to half of the globe. It has become, in some of the wealthier countries, an important gift giving occasion. Gifts have become differentiated by gender. Men consistently give more than women, perhaps because they wish for a foundation, while many women see decoration. The typical gifts are jewelry, roses or dinner. As reported by the National Retail Federation of America, more than $ 810 million worth of Valentine’s Day gifts are given to pets.

The timing of Valentine’s Day has expanded as well. In Korea and Japan, romantic gifts are given on March 14, one month later than in the USA. The product pallet has become more diverse: for example in Denmark, instead of roses, one exchanges pressed white flowers. In the Philippines, on February 14 small events are increasingly supplanted by large ceremonies and mass weddings. Italians, instead of smelling the roses, listen to the reading of poetry and eat chocolate hazelnut kisses also known as baci. In South Africa the name of a beloved one is written on one’s shirt sleeves.

Some governments consider the Day as unreligious and ban its celebration. By contrast, increasingly, on Valentine’s Day one does not just recognize the one you love, but also family and friends. The Pope in Rome has been known to carry flowers with him on that special day.

In sum, Valentine’s Day has taken on a wider mission, diversified its outreach, introduced more flexibility in terms of timing, product, message, and interaction with more people. Most importantly, it has propagated quite successfully the message of interaction, proximity, hugs and love.

As next step should encourage this expansion and integrate it more with our lives as business people, policy makers or consumers. Here are some suggestions how Valentine’s Day as a widening construct can serve to incorporate present day realities and future days outlook. To nudge things along, recommendations are included  for appropriate commemorative gifts.  

For President Trump: A cake with many candles but little sugar for providing many occasions of hope, change and new perspectives.

For Kim Jong-un of North Korea : a candle signifying the love of your people and in appreciation  for not blowing up  nuclear devices;

For the U.S. Congress: A “like” card for constituents to send to their own representative; to be accompanied by a ‘’you can do better’’ card for the rest of the institution;

For the global trade community: A “tough love” card which allocates specific responsibilities for rules and tasks to be changed, accompanied by jovial if not hearty messages indicating that “we understand”;

For Prime Minister May: some non-tear tissues – to dry the eyes – we won’t  break away;

For people both domestic and foreign who were struck by natural disasters or poverty: a red envelope with a check inside;

For tax payers:  no plastic but a paper bag; their reductions are more than just crumbs;

For corporations:  a colorful map showing new investment opportunities with large benefits;

To the Twitter company: some tightly packed characters showing concern;

For media: some loosely sourced but highly emotional news stories showing respect;

To the world at large: the form of messages and hugs represent how different cultures take different approaches to love; to get there, a relationship has to come first; joint efforts will help.

To my own small world: humongous love to wife Ilona and daughter Margaret; your gift; anything you want.

TO ALL:   Happy St.Valentine’s Day!

*Michael R. Czinkota teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent , U.K. His key book (with Ilkka Ronkainen) is “International Marketing” (10th edition, CENGAGE)