Can the U.S. Compete?

by Henry Michel, Chmn.; Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc., Parsons Brinckerhoff International Inc., and Parsons Brinckerhoff Development Corp.,

Serial Information: Worldwide Projects, 1993, Vol. 1, Issue 1, Pg. 35-38

Document Type: Feature article


Though some American firms, particularly those providing turnkey delivery systems, are very competitive abroad, as a rule U.S. engineering and construction firms face daunting obstacles in trying to win contracts overseas. The Europeans are unfairly subsidized and the Japanese have their Ministry of International Trade and Industry, collusion and tied aid programs, while the U.S. government neither supports its business people as much as they would like nor prevents unfair practices by their competitors. Nations rebuilt with U.S. help after World War II, needing to generate foreign currency, mastered international competition while short-sighted U.S. firms did not. Finance is critical to winning overseas work, but much aid is tied to the use of non-U.S. firms and the U.S. banking industry is in a shambles. Many U.S. trade policies have political, rather than commercial, rationales, while other countries use aid as a tool to enhance exports. Other problems include lagging U.S. spending on research and development spending; the overly litigous nature of American society, and poor education and training; and U.S. attitudes toward foreign business practices. In addition, other countries develop and amortize new equipment and techniques in their own protected markets, and can then be very price-competitive abroad. Japanese firms in particular compete as a conglomerate offering total delivery and immense purchasing and bartering power. Advice is offered for companies hoping to achieve a global viewpoint.

Subject Headings: Industries | Systems engineering | Construction companies | Government | Political factors | Research and development | Training | Pricing

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