Multinational corporations aren't about to give up on global business

An op-ed in the Financial Times argues that the era of borderless enterprise may be past, thanks to rising geopolitical tensions between the US and China. In "Geopolitics spells the demise of the global chief executive," Elisabeth Braw writes that the nationalities of companies and their chief executives now matter again and their ability to pursue a truly global business strategy will be limited. But has the situation actually changed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to explain that nationalities have always mattered, and many of these risks aren't new.

Today we are talking about the impact that increasing geopolitical tensions could have on big, multinational corporations. In a recent op-ed for the Financial Times, Elisabeth Braw of the American Enterprise Institute, AEI, argues that we could be entering a distinctly new chapter in global business, one in which where a company comes from matters much more. In other words, a move away from borderless companies and toward nationalism.

She cites CEOs like Ramon Laguarta of Pepsi and Satya Nadella of Microsoft, both foreign-born executives leading American companies, as a positive trend of globalization that may come to an end in the current political reality.

It's an extremely interesting and provocative piece. You should definitely read it.

We are not convinced. Let's get out the Red Pen.

First, Braw writes that "the era of borderless enterprise may be past" and argues that "suddenly companies', and executives', nationalities matter again."

"The era of borderless enterprise may be past...suddenly companies', and executives', nationalities matter again." When did nationalities stop mattering?

So question, when did nationalities stop mattering? Governments have long supported their national champions. In the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis, the German government spent 1.5 billion euros to bail out their auto industry. BMW, for one, might have had non-German higher ups, but when the rubber met the road, it mattered the most was that BMW was a German company. The era of the globalization never meant an end to national pride or responsibility when things got tough.

Secondly, the number of foreign CEOs of Global Fortune 500 companies has remained pretty constant since the 2008 financial crisis. I'd also point out that as of 2019, the last date we could find good numbers for, 45% of the companies on that list were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. No real change.

Next, Braw suggests that Western corporate titans may now conclude that the companies they run "should be loyal not just to their shareholders but to the company's home country if it provides democracy, rule of law and a safe business environment."

"Executives may believe that western companies should be loyal not just to their shareholders but to the company's home country if it provides democracy, rule of law and a safe business environment." Western companies have long done busines in nondemocratic countries.

I'm not ready to bet on that. Western companies have long done business in nondemocratic countries, and some major US businesses haven't blinked twice in recent years even on issues like Uighur forced labor. In fact, China overtook the United States last year as the top recipient of new foreign direct investment. Goldman Sachs just announced an expansion of its staff there by 2024. Amazon, Apple, Nike, Gap…the list goes on. Still doing business and expecting growth in China.

Finally, Braw writes that "executives may consider themselves citizens of nowhere, but a business can be harmed because of where it is based."

"Executives may consider themselves citizens of nowhere, but a business can be harmed because of where it is based."  But not Microsoft and Amazon, which are US national champions.

That's true. But is that risk new? There were boycotts of German companies in the 1930s, of course, and the same in South Africa during Apartheid in the 1960s.

Yes, Apple and Google are enthusiastic citizens of nowhere. But not so much for Microsoft and Amazon, which are increasingly US national champions.

In conclusion, do rising tensions between, say, the United States and China mean that a new era of business with borders is on the horizon? A Standard Chartered report, just from a couple of months ago, back in March found that of multinational corporations based in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, 42% "see their best growth opportunities outside of their home market." That's actually "5% higher than six months ago."


Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

More Show less

Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

More Show less

3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars.

More Show less

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World Podcast


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World Podcast


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal