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)

Getting so much stronger all the time

As one observes the international activities of President Trump, one must admire his tenacity, focus, and, let it be said, his successes. Far from isolating himself from the world, as many media reports had suggested, President Trump is becoming increasingly well entrenched in his world leadership role. Far from other leaders running away from him, they increasingly can to rub against his cloth in order to achieve at least symbolic proximity.

I will demonstrate this with two examples taken from his activities in the last five days, taken from the international business field  alone –  alone – so no need to worry about another discussion of the Deputy FBI director’s resignation.: One was the Trump visit to Davos, Switzerland, where business leaders, policy makers and think tank figures met to exchange ideas and plans , combining mostly in the  fields of business, investment, trade, and the macro policies which are promoted to address problems perhaps too large for any country alone. Media sages predicted an outcast Trump with no audience, no interest and no influence.

Well, the contrary occurred. One President Trump had announced his attendance, the list of attendees from other nations was upgraded by title and influence – Trumps presence led to a strengthening of Davos. Those that had referred to the Trump experience of a cold shoulder must have been very chagrined by the discussion between Trump and Klaus Schwab – the founder and head of the World Economic Forum. Schwab showered considerable praise on Trump and his first year achievements, a claim that was widely repeated to high ranking members of business and policy.

In an elegant turnaround, chroniclers of Davos  found one new thought and explanation. Trump is wealthy and in business, so no wonder the other attendees liked him, they are birds of the same feather. No matter that many business people, a year ago, were concerned about what the novice politician would do. Turns out, Trump was not blessed with predicted naiveté, but rather had some meaningful plans, many of which he shepherded forward. Far from being a disaster, Davos was a Trump triumph.

The second example comes from the State of the Union address. Again, many predictions were negative, ranging from limited content to rising attendance boycotts. Well, again something must have been wrong with the crystal ball. The speech was elegant, strong and inspiring. Trump used his great talent as a story teller to introduce modern day heroes to Congress, America and the world, and was able to communicate a feeling of pride, comfort, and leadership. How could anyone avoid applauding – and as we know, when the applause comes you’ve done at least some winning over.

But the strongest part of the President’s speech consisted of what he didn’t say. Let me first tell a story myself. In London, on Jermyn Street I went into a haberdashery to buy a cotton shirt. They were very expensive and I asked the salesman to prove that they were worth the money. He explained that all luxury shirts have some extra buttons sewn in, so that in case of loss, there would be a replacement available. Now come the evidence: His shirts did not have any spare buttons, because theirs did not fall off. The absence of even good things can be of substantial proof.

The speech, about 80 minutes long, had only two minutes worth of comments on trade and globalization. We know how important jobs, international competition and competitiveness are to the President. The lack of mention shows that he is convinced that res ipsa loquitur – things speak for themselves. The economy is not limping along but on a definite fast track. Production sites are re-located back to the United States. Innovation, concentration and investments give our companies and their employees new wings.

So at the end of his first year in office, Trump has reason to be proud and we can accept his moments of exuberance – unusual perhaps but deservedly present.  Let me reiterate what I consider the strongest line in the speech: Americans are dreamers too. Let’s keep it that way!

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).

New World, New Policy: Entrepreneurial Money Produces Residency Permits

A successful Chinese entrepreneur, showed me a news article. It reported that wealthy Chinese could buy an American passport and become US citizens. Is this really true? What are the implications of this visa program?

The US Employment Based Fifth Preference (EB-5) program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1990, to link investment, employment and residency. Three years later, the program language was relaxed from “to create ten direct employment opportunities”, to “directly or indirectly create 10 job opportunities.” This is broad and flexible wording. It is designed for entrepreneurial and wealthy investors outside the US, who fund a new commercial enterprise of  at least $500,000 for investments. Under the program, those entrepreneurs, their spouses and their unmarried children under 21 years old can apply for green cards permitting residency.The objective is to attract foreign investments to the U.S., and to stimulate economic development and job creation.

EB-5 demand has increased rapidly. In 2012, President Obama extended the program. In May of 2017, Congress extended the EB-5 Program until September 2017. There are many supporters.

In 2014, 10 thousand EB-5 petitions were filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). Overall, 5,115 have been approved. Over $2.5 billion investments were attracted. An additional $6.2 billion are awaiting federal adjudication. EB-5 capital is also an attractive low cost funding tool for project developers in the U.S. It offers foreign investors a way to permanent residency that is not backlogged by other applications and does not require sponsorship by a US employer.

Throughout the world today,  numerous programs like the EB-5 have been established. In Australia for example, foreign investors are granted the opportunity to immigrate, but only receive temporary residency for four years. An investment of AUD $1.5 million in an Australian company ( U.S $1.2 million) is required. France allows foreign investors to obtain residency for 10 years by making a “long term  and non-speculative investment of at least € 10 million (U.S $11.8 million) in industrial or commercial assets.”

There is a standard moral objection to the EB-5 program: The United States should not be in the business of selling the right to live there. This claim suffers from a slight misunderstanding. In effect, the government gives the visas away — to profit-making businesses that have jumped through the program’s requisite bureaucratic hoops. Then the companies can solicit investment based on the promise of permanent residency. In spite of ten thousand slots a year, 40,000 investors still wait for a green card. Obviously investor needs have not been met.

Investment immigrants are in high supply. The U.S government should use the opportunity and open the gates to them. The U.S. has an immigration culture, with a spirit willing to absorb both elites and  refugees of the world.

However, change must come; the program needs to be refined in terms of size of investment, number of jobs generated, industry direction, geographic location, and job recipients. I believe that the investment minimum should be $2.5 million, and the American job creation shall be at least 25. Then we can continue this program helping both investors and employees; a noble outcome!

News from the USTR: Expiration of the Generalized System of Preferences Program

United States Trade Representative Michael Froman issued the following statement regarding the July 31, 2013 expiration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.  GSP is a 37-year-old trade preference program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential, duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products when imported from one of 127 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

 “Beginning August 1, U.S. businesses and consumers will pay more for thousands of goods imported under the GSP program, including many inputs for U.S. manufacturing,” said Ambassador Froman.  “The Obama Administration urges Congress to extend this important trade program, which increases U.S. competitiveness, keeps costs low for U.S. consumers, and benefits some of the world’s poorest countries.”

Read more here. What is your opinion about the expiration of the GSP? Post your view in the comment section below!