Offsets: One answer to International Trade Imbalances

Offsets: One answer to International Trade Imbalances

Michael R. Czinkota

When foreign governments shop for defense supplies, they are not solely motivated by price and quality. In light of the trade balance effects of major acquisitions such as aircraft or defense products, international customers often require U.S. vendors to purchase goods from them in order to “offset” the trade balance effects large purchases have on their trade flows. In light of enormous U.S. trade deficits, it is time for the United States to reciprocate with offset demands of our trading partners. Frequently we find ourselves in conditions where foreign sales to us are major and our sales to importers and their nations are minor. This leads to trade relations which are out of kilter.  U.S. firms have accommodated foreign offset demands for decades. Now is the time when some give-back by our trading partners is the right medicine to improve world trade imbalances.

Offsets are industrial compensation arrangements demanded (so far only) by foreign governments as a condition for making major purchases, such as military hardware. Sometimes, these arrangements are directly related to the goods being traded. For instance, the Spanish air force’s planes – American-made McDonnell Douglass F/A-18 Hornets – use rudders, fuselage components, and speed brakes made by Spanish companies. U.S. sellers of the planes have provided the relevant technology information so that Spanish firms are now successful new producers in the industry. Under offset conditions, U.S. companies also often help export a client country’s goods go international, or even support the performance of tourism services. For example, the ‘Cleopatra Scheme’ allowed foreign suppliers to Egypt to meet their agreed upon offset obligations through package tours for international tourists.

In 2015, U.S. firms entered into 38 new offset agreements where they agreed to cause purchases  with 15 countries valued at $3.1 billion. In 2017, the total U.S. trade deficit was $566 billion after it imported $2.895 trillion of goods and services while exporting $2.329 trillion. No country has a bigger trade surplus with the United States than China. In 2017, the U.S. deficit with China climbed to its highest level on record, amounting to a gap of $375 billion.

Eliminating imbalances is a core component of the Trump administration’s international economic policy. One policy approach has been the threat of tariffs against China,.  One effective supplemental strategy could be the instigation of offset agreements with major trade surplus nations.

For instance, many American imports that contribute to the trade deficit are capital goods, such as computers and telecom equipment. An offset agreement between China and the United States could require China to use American-made components, perhaps even from Chinese owned plants.  An example could be the export of Smithfield ham from the U.S. to be served in company cafeterias in China. Then there are excellent opportunities for Chinese tourists, particularly if equipped with high-spend budgets.

The American trade deficit is not easily resolved. Government would be well served to explore non-traditional options in order to develop more than one fulcrum for leverage. New use of  offset agreements – which have provided our trading partners with past success at our expense – could help revitalize American industries and  bring a new sense of balance to trade relationships. Our government should encourage offset commitments by foreign firms and countries who sell a lot to us. America deserves to reap the benefits!

Michael Czinkota (czinkotm@georgetown.edu) 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 ed., CENGAGE). Lisa Burgoa contributed to this commentary.

Free Trade Zones and Counterfeit Goods

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the Organization for Economic Co-opertaion and Development (OECD)’s recent report claims that free trade zones may be facilitating illegal activities, such as trade in counterfeit and pirated products, by providing good infrastructure with little oversight over its use.

Free Trade Zones (FTZs) encompass a broad range of activities, from tourism to retail sales. They typically represent duty-free customs areas, or offer benefits based on location, in a geographically limited space. Today, there are over 3,500 zones in 130 economies, collectively employing 66 million workers worldwide.

A number of benefits drive countries to embrace FTZs. In general, these areas increase a nation’s foreign exchange reserves and improve the balance of payments. On a local level, new supply chains increase business for domestic producers that sell inputs by zone-based firms. Finally, these areas provide jobs that bolster employment and, at least in developing countries, can lead to higher wages over time.

Apart from FTZ’s benefits to their host country at both a local and national level, there may also be economic exposure to criminal activities as a result of insufficient regulation. Research shows that the number of FTZs in an economy appears correlated with the value of exports of counterfeit and pirated products.

With less oversight, rogue actors are attracted to FTZs to engage in illegal and criminal trade. The OECD’s findings indicate that one additional FTZ within an economy increases counterfeiting by 5.9 percent on average. It also appears that FTZs tend to be overly permissive by letting companies get away with poor safety and health conditions. This limited oversight is particularly troubling when one considers the potential for exploitation in areas such as human trafficking.

The OECD and EUIPO both stress the need for future action to curb the misuse of FTZs. They recommend developing clear guidelines for countries to increase transparency and promote clean and fair trade in FTZs, based on the involvement of industry members and key stakeholder of the trade supply chain.

The organizations identify three areas for future analysis. The first is the measurement the role of FTZs in the trade of illicit and counterfeit goods. The next step requires a fuller quantitative analysis of counterfeit goods. Finally, further research needs to explore why counterfeit profiles differ from similar economies.

FTZs provide a number of advantages to economies, but without further regulation and research, they may induce heightened criminal activity. Both public and private actors must devise and apply strong deterrents to the establishment of criminal networks.

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).

Lisa Burgoa of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service contributed to this comment.

An Example of Midterm: The Tomato: Vegetable or Fruit?

Today, we had a midterm in the “Marketing Across Borders” course in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. Students were asked to elaborate on the trade consequences of a Supreme Court Decision “Nix vs. Hedden” 1893. Our working title is “The Tomato: Vegetable or Fruit?”.

Here is my summary of the case, please feel free to comment or send us your analysis of this case and I will respond to you. Enjoy!

The Tomato: Vegetable or Fruit?

In 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court grappled with an international legal question that continues to confound to this day — does a tomato qualify as a vegetable or a fruit?

Though many associate the tomato with the stews, salads, and sandwiches that are typically the domain of vegetables, any botanist will tell you that the plant meets the scientific definition of a fruit: a seed-bearing structure that  develops from the ovary of a flowering plant.

But in the U.S. Supreme Court case Nix vs. Hedden, the judges unanimously arrived at a different definition. They ruled that imported tomatoes should be taxed as vegetables, which had a 10 percent tariff when they arrived on American shores, rather than as fruit, which carried no tariff.

Though the court acknowledged that a tomato is technically a fruit, it went on to write that according to the “common” definition most people use, tomatoes fall under the same category as other vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, and carrots. In other words, a tomato counts as a vegetable because most people thought it was.

A more recent example of changing definitions in trade policy arose during a trade war between Vietnam and the United States that started in 2001. When cheap imports of Vietnamese catfish threatened to put U.S. producers, who had higher costs, out of business, American lobbyists and lawmakers scrambled to find a way to bar Vietnamese producers from the market.

The coalition persuaded Congress that the word “catfish” only applied to U.S. varieties, not Vietnamese imports, even though there was no biological difference between the fish. Thus, when Congress normalized trade relations with Vietnam, its definition of “catfish” excluded basa or tra, the names applied to Vietnamese catfish.

Even today, the questions explored by the Nix v. Hedden case continue to have implications. What does this Supreme Court case – along with the example of the Vietnamese catfish – tell us about trade policy? Who ultimately defines a product, and how could altering definitions affect trade policy? Do tariffs still play a role in modern-day international trade, and can marketers make a difference?

Please analyze this case.

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).

Sometimes even rankings can be Christmas presents

GoogleRankingCongratulations to Professor Dr. Michael R. Czinkota on being recognized as one of the world’s leading authors on international business and marketing for publications during the period 1980-2015! Throughout the 35 years, Professor Czinkota has always stayed in the top 20 of the prolific authors list from different sources.

“An analysis of significant contributions to the international business literature” in the Journal of International Business Studies rated Professor Czinkota among the top 3 most prolific authors worldwide, 1980-1989.

An analysis in the Asian Pacific Journal of Management ranked Professor Czinkota as #4 in the Journal of World Business, #7 in the Journal of International Marketing and #14 in all 6 leading business journals in the world for the time period 1996-2006.

More recently, Professor Czinkota was recognized among the top 8 pioneering researchers in international marketing around the world. He was also ranked among the top 20 most prolific international marketing authors during the period 1995-2015 in an anthology by Leonidou, Katsikeas, Samiee and Aykol. (2018)

In December 2017 – right before Christmas, Professor Czinkota occupied the first place of Global Google citations for export promotion and export management. He also ranked in second place for trade policy and place 8 for International Marketing, which is an exciting present for Christmas.

Professor Czinkota teaches at the McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University and at the Kent Business School, University of Kent. He was awarded the Significant Contribution to Global Marketing award by the American Marketing Association in 2007. Professor Czinkota is the co-author of International Marketing, 10th Edition, Cengage (with I. Ronkainen); International Business, 8th Edition, Wiley (with I. Ronkainen and M. Moffett) and Fundamentals of International Business, 6th Edition, (with I. Ronkainen and M. Moffett), Wessex. His blog also was named the third most successful international business blog.

Pecan farmers pushing for fewer trade barriers

From wymt.com.

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) — The pecan farming business is booming. The industry is rapidly adding jobs in Georgia and billions of dollars to the economy in the South, but now this sector faces a stumbling block.

Pecan farmers are looking to send more of their product overseas. The Indian market looks promising, but U.S. farmers face high export costs. Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers is fighting to lower those rates.

Georgia pecan farmer Jeb Barrow has seen the pecan farming business change. He’s been a grower since 1974, and just in the past several years, he’s seen it go from a domestic market to an international one.

Now about a third of U.S. crops are shipped to China.

“That’s kind of a good news-bad news situation,” said Barrow.

“Anybody that reads the paper or looks at the news understands that some geopolitical event could occur tomorrow that could have that effect, so that’s kind of a sword Damocles if you will hanging over the industry’s head,” explained Barrow.

Ultimately, Barrow says it wouldn’t be wise for farmers to just rely on Chinese buyers. So, their interest turns to India, which has an exploding population and a diet rich in nuts.

“We have high hopes that the Indian market can – if we can get the tariff issue addressed – the Indian market can be developed and in time others as well, so everybody’s optimistic,” said Barrow.

The sticking point? U.S. tree nut farmers sending pistachios or almonds face, on average, a 10 percent tariff to ship products to India. That tariff, essentially a tax, is 36 percent for pecans.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for Georgia and the southeast. A lot of people down there have committed to pecans as a product for the future, and I think they’re right,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).

Georgia Senator David Perdue and eight of his colleagues recently signed a letter to the U.S. trade representative, urging officials to negotiate lower tariffs.

“We know to grow our economy, we need open and free markets around the world. That’s what this is all about,” said Perdue.

Trade expert and Georgetown Professor Michael Czinkota says talks with India could mean a little give and take, but ultimately, both countries would benefit from streamlining trade barriers.

“From an altruistic perspective, we want their own people to do well. Because if they do well, then they buy more of our products and our relationships are likely to be better, so this whole idea of reducing the tariff on nuts is a good thing,” said Czinkota.

There are 15 pecan-producing states in the U.S., so if officials can help farmers crack into the Indian market, the impact could be tremendous.