Ironically, it was the leadership role of the U.S. after World War II that led to the shift in trade positions. American policymakers have long seen the U.S. as the leading country in world power and trade. This opinion brought with it a sense of obligation to assist other countries with their trade efforts.
Americans believed that without their help, other countries would never play a meaningful role in the global economy. While there was continuing aid to other countries and their businesses, U.S. domestic firms received no special support or aid. These policies continued for decades, eventually placing U.S. companies at a distinct disadvantage in the world trading environment.
At the same time, U.S. companies were continually assured that the American domestic market was large enough to support the nation’s businesses. That market availability and the relative distance to overseas markets led U.S. manufacturers to remain content to keep their trade within domestic borders. The perception was that exporting and international marketing were not worth the risk and effort.
Meanwhile, as smaller nations were forced to look beyond their borders to grow and thrive, their companies trained executives about markets abroad and cultural sensitivities and differences. U.S. managers didn’t learn this on the job and students didn’t learn about it in business schools. They lacked global interest, information, and education. This, combined with an overall ignorance of where and how to market internationally and unfamiliarity with global market conditions and trade regulations, nearly ensured that the U.S. would continue to lose its share of the international market.
Conditions are changing, though, as U.S. businesses realize that their survival depends on a global, rather than domestic, marketplace. E-commerce has made it easier for many to think past their borders and expand outward, serving a wider, more international audience. Universities and their business programs, in particular, are stepping up to educate students not only in theory but in practice, sending students abroad for internships and other learning experiences.
This is a preview of my new book, Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead to appear with Taylor and Francis in early 2011. I will be posting little snippets from the book every once in a while. I encourage you to read, comment, share, and add your thoughts to the comment section. And look for the book in June.