Trump fostering a new era of prosperity for US-EU relationship

The walk over burning coals with tariffs rattling has been completed and soothing coolness has returned. EU Commission President Juncker came to Washington with a publicly pronounced low level of expectations. But, as could be expected, when it was all said and (hopefully) done, acerbic argument gave way to collegial progress. The United States will be able to sell more of its products to Europe, and, in exchange, the treat of prohibitive tariffs will be eased.

Some believe that these developments were unexpected – like Manna from heaven. Not so! The Trump Administration had undertaken many steps to indicate that trade was a key concern. Unlike the experience of other administrations, President Trump persisted in his intent to support American business domestically and internationally. The shot across the bow of the ship Europa helped to concentrate the minds of policy makers. Yes, they still have other problems, such as NATO, Household deficits, Brexit, migration, and more. However, with the imposition of significant tariffs, Trump made it clear that trade had to move up on the list of important policies to consider.

After much hesitation, the adjustment steps began to take place. And rightfully so, when one considers that it has been more than 70 years, three generations , since the setting in place of U.S. sponsored world trade mechanisms such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Back then, the principal dimension was the strengthening of European economies in order to improve local standards of living and achieve a meaningful defense against the then Soviet Bloc. In support of these goals, the U.S. willingly accepted its leadership cost to a growing excess.

The world changed, as did its opportunities and threats. But the U.S. negotiation approach stayed the same, support others, don’t worry about the drawbacks to the privileged U.S. firms. Over time, the U.S. started to fall behind – lots of imports, few exports, and still no major support from the government. When Trump took on his campaign, he promised changes in the trade picture, and he even lived up to that goal after he won the election. He started to use an anvil and hammer approach to break through old fashioned restrictions and chains. When other nations complained, he warned them of the sparks that could fly during the hammering in a larger forging process. His watchword was ‘reciprocal’ relations.

Now, it has worked out. With reason on both sides there will be progress and stronger linkages. It is gratifying to see how past barriers can be converted into linkages. Decades ago, for example, the river Spree in Berlin clearly marked the distance and separation between East and West Germany. Today, the very same river offers easy crossing and pulls the two river banks together. Its flow encourages rather than inhibits linkage.

The willingness to acknowledge shortcomings and engage in the collaborative implementation of solutions is a new engine for growth. Trump has coached this right, the EU and Juncker are good co-captains. Let the new game begin!

Professor Czinkota (czinkotm@georgetown.edu) teaches International Business and Trade at Georgetown University and the University of Kent. His forthcoming book in October 2018 is In Search for the Soul of International Business.

This commentary was published first by The Hill; Washington D.C. On July 29, 2018

The Unspoken Truth about International Business

Language has been described as the mirror of culture. Language itself is multidimensional. This is true not only of the spoken word but also of the nonverbal language of international business.

Messages are conveyed not just by the words used, but also by how those words are spoken and through such nonverbal means as gestures, body position, and eye contact. These nonverbal actions and behaviors reveal hidden clues to culture.

Five key topics – time, space, body language, friendship patterns and business agreements – offer a starting point from which managers can begin to acquire the understanding necessary to do business in foreign countries.

Understanding national and cultural differences in the concept of time is critical for an international business manager. In many parts of the world, time is flexible and is not seen as a limited commodity; people come late to appointments or may not come at all.

In Mexico for instance, it is not unusual to show up at 1:45PM for a 1:00PM appointment. Although a late afternoon siesta cuts apart the business day, businesspeople will often be at their desks until 10 o’clock at night.

In Hong Kong, too, it is futile to set exact meeting times because getting from one place to another may take minutes or hours, depending on traffic.

Showing indignation or impatience at such behavior would astonish an Arab, Latin American, or Asian.

Perception of time also affects business negotiations. Asians and Europeans tend to be more interested in long-term partnerships, while Americans are eager for deals that will be profitable in the short term, meaning less than a year.

Individuals vary in their preferences for personal space. Arabs and Latin Americans like to stand close to people when they talk. If an American who may not be comfortable at such close range, backs away from an Arab, this might incorrectly be perceived as a negative reaction.

An interesting exercise is to compare and contrast the conversation styles of different nationalities. Northern Europeans are quite reserved in using their hands and maintain a good amount of personal space, whereas Southern Europeans involved their bodies to a far greater degree in making a point.

International body language, too, can befuddle international business relations.

For example, an American manager may after successful completion of negotiations, impulsively give a finger-and-thumb “okay” sign. In southern France, this would signify the deal was worthless, and in Japan, it would mean that a little bribe had been requested. The gesture would be grossly insulting to Brazilians.

Misunderstanding nonverbal cues can undermine international negotiations. While Eastern and Chinese negotiators usually lean back and make frequent eye contact while projecting negativity, Western negotiators usually avert their gaze for the same purpose.

In some countries, extended social acquaintance and the establishment of appropriate personal rapport are essential to conducting business. The feeling is that one should know one’s business partner on a personal level before transactions can occur.

Therefore, rushing straight to business will not be rewarded because deals are made on the basis of not only the best product or price, but also the entity or person deemed most trustworthy. Contract may be bound on handshakes, not lengthy and complex agreements – a fact that makes some, especially Western, businesspeople uneasy.

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Excerpt from Fundamentals of International Business, 3rdby Michael R. Czinkota, Ilkka A. Ronkainen, and Michael H. Moffett

Michael Czinkota (czinkotm@georgetown.edu) teaches international business and trade at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Kent. His latest book, forthcoming in October 2018, is “In Search for the Soul of International Business”.

 

 

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