Commentary on International Business by Team SAR
January 2000

The Most Influential People in World Trade

A single person can create a wide wake of influence over contemporaries. Some high-profile individuals consciously wield their notoriety; with others, it is a seemingly unavoidable consequence of popularity. Nevertheless, by virtue of their rank, power, or other vehicle of visibility, these personalities influence people's thoughts and actions in global commerce and relations. This is not to say that the net effect is always for the better-only that the effect is felt over a broad swath of society.

Below are our choices for Most Influential People in World Trade. Have we erred through omission or commission? Maybe so, but there were so many heroes and scalawags to choose from, it wasn't easy to choose just a few whose notices could be-to stand the New York Times on its head-"print to fit."

John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems, for pioneering Internet commerce and being the driving force behind network creation. Although it may be an exaggeration, it is only slight: By nearly cornering the market for Internet routing and switching components, Cisco has almost single-handedly enabled the virtual office; allowed businesses to buy, sell, and communicate around the globe at the click of a button more efficiently and cheaper than ever before; and has thus made perhaps the largest single contribution to "globalization."

Chambers, who had to overcome mild dyslexia and prefers one page summaries to ponderous reports, is rumored to greet his managers with "Are you having fun?" They should be having a great time: Cisco's burgeoning wealth places it number two on the S&P 500's list of top growth stocks over the past five years. Over the past seven years, Cisco spent nearly $20 billion to acquire 40 startups which contribute to the company's position as the nabob of networking. Cisco accounts for one-third of the dollar value transacted in cyberspace in 1997. Chambers, who took the helm at Cisco in November of 1994, made the company show rather than tell the world that facilitating e-commerce was good for company, customers, and profits. Over 70% of the firm's orders are transacted on the 'net today. Directing data around large corporate networks is the biggest chunk of Cisco's revenue: $12.2 billion, or 55% of the total. Fully 80% of Internet routers and a large share of the data switches are provided by Cisco, which holds a 33% share of the $9-billion market. Recent acquisitions highlight determination to dominate Internet telephony as well. Chambers is also a member of President Clinton's prestigious Committee for Trade Policy.

Mike Moore, Australian-born New Zealand director general of the WTO, for contributing to disarray in the organization by refusing to share the stewardship of the group. At a time when supranational leadership is needed, given the widening rift between have and have-not nations, Moore's refusal to unite the WTO puts a hefty roadblock in the way of freer trade.
The WTO has been split by a membership unable to decide on whether the leader of trade liberalization should come from a have or a have-not (see World Trade, October 1999, "The World Trade Organization at a Crossroads"). Moore was supported by many of the most developed countries, but not by Japan, which preferred Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi (who, in the end, was named to share the director general's position). With each to serve three years, Panitchpakdi hoped for an advisory role during Moore's term, but that idea was dispatched with Moore's declaration that each man should "do the job and then get out." Now in charge of the five-year-old successor organization to the GATT, Moore is presiding over the late-November, early-December meeting in Seattle which launches the Millennium round of negotiations. Disputes have outstripped the old trade issues and moved into the realm of biogenetics and other areas requiring specific expertise. With Moore practically a lame duck already and Panitchpakdi unsupported by many of the WTO's powerful members, can the body meet the challenge?

Stephen Kresovich, Director of Cornell University's Institute for Genomic Diversity, for emerging as the champion of "Genomics," the ability to map out the genetic content in specific varieties of organisms, in order to create a databank for breeding and hybridizing. An unfortunate side effect of the growth of laboratory genetic engineering has been intensified trade animosity between the US and the European Union. Where's the beef? Even more than hormone-treated cattle (of which EU buyers are wary, although protecting beef farmers in the EU no doubt contributes to their concern), genetically altered foods are stirring up new labeling laws and trade barriers. Beyond impeding the flow of goods, such antipathy to gene-altered products is creating precedents for scientific (and competitive) review of products which do free trade no good at all.

"Genomics" and "bioinformatics" are the new disciplines focused on creating databases of genetic content in life forms so that traditional crossbreeding (such as that used for decades to develop hybrid blight-resistant roses and tomatoes and prize steers) can be effectively put to use for more productive, disease-free crops and herds. Currently, biotech giants such as Monsanto and Cargill (which markets and sells a large percentage of US grain sold abroad) are facing increasing resistance to genetically altered products. Both the steaks and the stakes are enormous: Exports of US crops totalled $46 billion last year and represent one market sector where our international trade is in the black.

The genomics movement is gaining popularity with others who recognize the importance of feeding a growing world population without creating Frankensteinian DNA. While genetic modification in the laboratory has been applied to bringing disease-resistant plants and faster-producing animals to market over the last decade, it now faces a host of foes, from environmentalists to protectionists. This year's reports that biotechnic, gene-tweaked corn crops were releasing pollen that poisoned millions of monarch butterflies set even junk-food junkies to wondering how to reinterpret "you are what you eat." Debates now center around enforced labeling of any genetically modified products, and not just in the EU. Japan, too, for example, favors strict labeling laws for such food and other countries are also jumping on the labeling bandwagon.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, for getting in deep sauerkraut while providing the German tax money to bring some of the EU economies up to snuff for membership in the EMU. Europe is one of the three large trading areas of the world. Its economic health is vital to our own. Germany is the largest economy within Europe. Its health is vital to Europe's. Gerhard Schroeder has so far spent most of his first term in office barely staying afloat, with the German economy, and, therefore, Europe's, suffering as a result. Particularly unpopular are his tax programs, especially when the Germans are a net provider to the EU. The unpopular decision to abandon the beloved German mark in favor of the euro, another move viewed by Germans as help for the rest of the EU at the expense of Germany, has also hurt his effectiveness.

Gerhard, who emerged from his '70s leadership of the Jusos, the youth group of the German Social Democratic Party known for vociferous anti-American and anti-nuclear sentiments, can be likened to an aging hippie who now is out of step with his own philosophy. As soon as he ousted Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Schroeder had to face the fact that the huge socialist safety nets and matching expenditures that followed German reunification were like lead weights around the ankles of a nation trying to stay in the swim of the EMU. Now years away from Jusos, Schroeder clings to the trappings of new status-Cuban cigars and Armani suits-while losing his grip on the populace. Recent defeats in the states of Thuringia, Saarland, Hesse, Bremen, Saxony, and Brandenburg bode ill for his political future. Apparently other Germans are considering the necessity of joining EMU neighbors, who are cutting back on social programs to increase competitiveness. Unemployment in Germany is stubbornly high at an average of 10% nationwide and as high as 20% in parts of what was once East Germany. Not helping: party scandals involving insider trading, tax fraud, and prostitution.

President William Jefferson Clinton, for focussing on the economy at home, Stupid, while missing out on fast-track authority. Looming trade deficits are almost high enough to dwarf Clinton's presidency-long problems. Seven years ago, as Clinton ascended to the presidency, his major raison d'Ítre was to pass a national health-care package. Beset by personal scandals, special interests, and congressional intransigence, Clinton has failed to make significant inroads into many of the areas he declared top priority. However, he has presided over a period of extraordinary domestic economic growth and resultant dollar strength. Because of this, the US has so outdistanced the former Asian miracle (later known as the Asian crisis) and even the new EMU, that our exports have become too expensive for the many struggling nations outside our borders, with a consequential rise in the trade deficit. Ironically, national health care reform seems to be coming back into prominence as we face another presidential election. How does it go? You can please some of the people some of the time, and all of the people none of the time. Clinton's failure to get his own party to back fast-track authority emboldened the Republicans, who also largely opposed it (perhaps only to embarrass the President), with the rest of us the losers.

Mickey Mouse (and his uncle Michael D. Eisner, Chairman and CEO of Walt Disney Company), for stimulating imagination and economies in diverse locales and helping to open the way for "American" products everywhere. Wherever you're going, it's likely that Mickey's been there first, or the Lion King, or Mulan. American products, often derided by locals as emulating a disliked American culture, have had the ice broken and the way paved by Disney, among others (e.g., McDonald's). Consumers around the world now think that maybe American products aren't that bad after all.

The 52-year-old rodent enters the third millennium with a worldwide following of adoring fans, although in truth, some countries offer up greater kudos to Donald Duck-he quacks them up in any language. The benevolent empire is now run by Michael Eisner, whose revamped Euro Disney has recently unveiled plans to build a new covered theme park and production studio adjacent to Disneyland Paris, taking advantage of the ground and air transportation links and plethora of hotel rooms available in the area. Meanwhile, another Asian Disney theme park, in addition to the Tokyo location, is in the negotiation stage. With a multilingual and localized web site, Mickey is one lucky Mouse: CEO Eisner also dispenses the happiest side of American culture via Disney's ABC Entertainment Television, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, Miramax Films, publishing companies, a cruise line, Infoseek, and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim NHL team.

David Hasselhoff, for delivering the other side of American culture-masculine beach pulchritude-to the repressed (muscle) masses. One of the most popular shows in the world, Hasselhoff's Baywatch has once and for all shown retailers around the globe that American culture sells.

Rumors abound that Baltimore-born Hasselhoff, 46, will be leaving the Baywatch beach after nine years of sun and sand to pursue wider career choices, including acting on Broadway. Millions will miss his Mitch Buchannon character, a role which has carried his image around the world in one of the most widely syndicated TV shows in history. The Hasselhoff factor was first observed when he played Snapper Foster on CBS's The Young and the Restless in 1973. In 1982, he starred in Knight Rider (seen as El Coche FantŠstico in Spain). Compared to Elvis Presley by the German press, Hasselhoff has women swooning and men green with envy from Alberta to the Zuider Zee. Baywatch has been distributed in approximately 120 countries, and the star's singing sells well in Europe. He does have star power, as well as multiple talents. One of his young female fans stared slack-jawed in amazement when she spotted him in a crowd, dressed in full mariachi regalia, disembarking at Los Angeles from a flight from Mexico. When he left before she gathered the courage to ask for an autograph, the teenager bursting into tears and wailed, "I missed my chance! Now he'll never notice me!"

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, for reminding us that some things haven't changed in China. When Premier Zhu Rongji visited the US earlier this year, he brought meaningful concessions and the hope that China would receive strong support for near-term WTO accession. WTO membership for the China would give the US much greater market access there over time. Instead, Zhu was sent packing with only vague promises of future support. At the PRC's October 1, 1999, Guo Qing (National Day) celebration of the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic, the WTO was not an issue. Threats of military force should Taiwan declare independence were in the forefront of international reports. Just days before the fireworks exploded over Tian An Men Square in a carefully orchestrated spectacle, Jiang had addressed members of the Fortune 500, reminding participants that China is now freer and richer than anyone would have anticipated two decades ago. Still, it will be a long time coming before saving face is not an integral part of Chinese policy, although it is in contrast to the pragmatism that opened the bamboo curtain. This country, with its overwhelming population and fast-forward feats of economic development, has earned much face in global trade. But the Chinese/US trade imbalance is troubling. WTO membership was at least still on center stage at the 12th meeting of the China-United States Joint Economic Committee in Beijing in late October.

Wal-Mart's CEO David Glass, for bringing American superstores to the world. Wal-Mart is changing the face of retailing around the world. Its simple, yet ingenious formula (the all-purpose superstore) is being emulated on several continents. Japan is building superstores, and hyperstores in Argentina have multiplied so fast that the national government is legislating ways to save the Mom and Pops. In Europe, Wal-Mart's expansion in Germany alone has cost the corporation about a penny a share for infrastructure and building. German retailers have responded with consolidations and lengthening stores hour as well as diversified product offerings.

Wal-Mart has recently acquired ASDA in the UK, putting it in third place among food retailers in that market faster than you can say "treacle." Glass recently named John Menzer to head the company's international division. The strategic plan calls for international to contribute one-third of sales and profit growth within three to five years.
Heirs of Sam Walton still own about 38% of the corporation and its 3,600 Wal-Marts, Sam's Clubs, and Wal-Mart Supercenters. First-half 1999 growth shows a 27% rise in net income on a 16% gain in revenue. Although only about 10% of revenue came from international outlets, the company is the leading retailer in Canada and Mexico and will add approximately 80 international outlets in fiscal 2000. Bricks and mortar presence in South American, Europe, and Asia is only one avenue to the global hall of retail fame; the Wal-Mart's web site, though no, will have the advantage of the buying power of such a huge concern. For example, the retailer sells about 20% of all the laundry detergent that goes to US consumers. Wal-Mart may also have an advantage over sellers who rely strictly on cybersites, because it has geographically diverse locations already extant to anchor distribution and logistics.

Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, for presiding over difficult percentages. Brazil's economic health undoubtedly affects all of Latin America-although not nearly as much as it once did (see this issue, "As Brazil Goes"). Cardoso's admirable success in reigning in Brazil's hyperinflation helped the entire region stabilize, but his failure to maintain the value of the real and to corral his congress has set back Brazil's climb out of the economic doldrums.

Brazil's high budget deficit and 19% interest rates remain in spite of attempts at austerity. Following the January 35% devaluation in the real, the Brazilian president's own disapproval rating rose to 65% in September from 59% in August. The Vox Populi poll found 44% of 2002 Brazilians interviewed disapproved of the IMF economic package which offered $41.5 billion in aid, but 29% thought the government should maintain the program. And for the first half of 1999, Brazilian exports dropped 29% and imports followed suit by falling off 31%. Brazil's comparatively huge population of 160 million is approximately five times that of Argentina, a Mercosur partner, with whom the country has exchanged a series of trade adjustments, including an autumn proclamation that 400 Argentine products would no longer be accorded the Mercosur courtesy of assured customs clearance in 24 hours or less. Because Argentina maintains a 1:1 parity with the US dollar and Uruguay and Paraguay move within a fixed band, the decision to float the real in January has caused consternation in other countries in the region. Observers, however, attribute some of the exigencies to the many elections in the region this and next year.

Boris Yeltsin, for serving as reeling captain of the Russian ship of state. Although Yeltsin has become almost a non-issue, since he is not allowed to seek a third term as president, his almost single-handed destabilization of Russia has great negative impact on the politics and economics of surrounding countries, e.g., doubtful nuclear weapons security and threatened natural gas supplies to Turkey and Eastern European markets.

Upcoming elections for a new parliament before the new year and then a new president next June all but guarantee that the serious maladies plaguing Russia will not be addressed any time soon. Blatant corruption, jaw-dropping economic mismanagement, and the awesome vacuum where leadership should be have turned Russia into a trade No-Man's Land. Yevgeny Primakov, former prime minister from September 1998 until he was fired by Yeltsin in May of 1999, is the current front-runner. Little comfort here: The candidate is a favorite of nationalists and former communists, who may yet reinstate their influence over a frightened and disenfranchised Russian populace.

Many others also influence international trade. Each of you, too, changes the way international business is conducted and contributes to its long term health. What you do (or don't do) each day alters not only your own fortunes, but those of everyone around you.