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Hullabaloo


Monday, June 28, 2004

 
America Inc. Downgraded

Please tell me again why capitalists support Republicans? It has been shown time and again that the markets do better under Democrats. And, it's clear that Democratic administrations create a more broad based recovery from the inevitable downturns, which supports a stable, thriving middle class --- also good for the economy.

And with globalization being an unstoppable force, it's also logical that America's image is important to our ability to conduct business internationally. The most powerful nation on earth behaving like a petulant bully does not inspire confidence:


After 14 years of regular travel to Brazil, Andrew Odell was thunderstruck by what he found there on a trip last month. "I have never run into such a consensus view on US politics," says the contract negotiator and partner at Bryan Cave, a New York law firm. "People condemn the US [for its Middle East policy], and are frightened by the US."

[...]

I would say it creates a backlash for everybody in an interdependent world," says Bruce Patton, deputy director of the Harvard Negotiation Project in Cambridge, Mass. "If you're a really big kid and you don't lean over backward not to be coercive, people think you're a bully.... If you get what you want just because you can, they hate you for it."

That's what appears to be happening with America's image abroad. For example, only 15 percent of Indonesians felt somewhat favorable or very favorable toward the US, down from 61 percent a year earlier. The Roper survey of 30,000 people in 30 countries also found declines in non-Muslim countries: Russia, down 25 percentage points; France, down 20 points; Italy, down 10.

"Overseas, they perceive Americans as being aggressive and uncompromising," says Sheida Hodge, managing director of the cross-cultural division for Berlitz International in Princeton, N.J. Ms. Hodge spent the last half of 2003 on the road. "Everywhere I went I heard the same thing: 'Americans want to have their way.' The Japanese tell you; the Chinese tell you; the French tell you.

How that political concern translates to the bottom line is debatable. For the first time since RoperASW began tracking it in 1998, America's declining reputation was beginning to affect the appeal of US brands, its survey found.


The article indicates that the problem is still small and that most overseas consumers have not indicated any hostility to American brands. But, the problem does seem to be growing.

Unbelievably, there are some who believe that the neoconservative unilateralist bullying technique should work in business as well. This one's from Florida --- a Bush supporter, no doubt:

Instead of a softer stance, one emerging school of negotiating calls for tougher tactics. According to this view, the US is losing business because its win-win approach fails overseas.

"So often, especially where culture is used as a barrier, the excuse is that 'Well, it's our culture, so you have to give us something. It's our culture, so in order for you to do business here, you're going to have to compromise,' " says Jim Camp, a negotiating coach in Vero Beach, Fla., and author of the contrarian new book "Start with No."

Mr. Camp, who has worked with nearly 200 public- and private-sector clients, cites a major American supplier to the photographic-instruments industry. The firm ships large, expensive machines abroad to firms that rely on them to operate. That ought to provide some leverage, Camp says, but it doesn't.

"That American supplier has not had one year of profitability in the past nine years," he says. "They've had a win-win mind-set, and they've compromised away their margins of profit." The company, he says, has stayed in business by firing employees and outsourcing jobs.

Camp calls this a widespread syndrome. "It's shocking to me the number of people who won't even ask what the other side requires," he says. "Instead, they'll compromise before they even find out. They'll cut their price trying to get someone to like them.


Was it Deming who said, "negotiating is for pussies?" I can't remember.

I'm sure there is a nugget of truth in what he says. I have no doubt that some American businesses don't negotiate very well. But, the condescending attitude expressed in his comment about culture says it all. He's got the same disease as Cheney and Rumsfeld --- hubris.

I think we have plenty of evidence of how well this negotiating style works from the Republicans in congress. It's the Dick Cheney business model based upon the "go fuck yourself" principle. Very effective. Nothing is better for business than having your partners and customers hate you. After all, if they don't want to buy our crap we'll just invade their countries, kill their leaders and take everything they have. Simple.

Of course, if you aren't in a position to do that, your overseas customers might just decide to do business with a bunch of freedom-fries munchers in Old Europe. Or maybe even those smiling backstabbers in Asia.

But other dealmakers aren't panicked. Experts say that it's still about individual relationships built on mutual respect and trust. And anecdotes suggest that America may still have some goodwill to draw upon

[...]

"People can separate what they feel about the current administration's politics from their desire to do a deal," says Keffer.


For now. If the American people validate this administration by sending it back for another four years, those furriners may decide that Americans aren't the kind of people they want to do business with. If we elect politicians who don't honor treaties, agreements and alliances, why should anyone think we'd honor a contract?





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