Foreign Affairs – Foreign Trade and Intangible Assets

Michael D. Moberly, Principal, Founder, kpstrat

When asked, I frequently characterize U.S. foreign affairs and trade policies

  • as generally well-intended (at-the-time) perspectives, aspirational prognostications, and/or agenda-driven interpretations of what-has-beenneeds to be,
  • which, once public, await ‘viral intended’ comment by political-ideological opponents, bad state actors, and/or a crisis to emerge which puts-all-to-keystroke speed debate and sustainability ‘testing’.

As a (business) intangible asset strategist and risk mitigator I recognize U.S. foreign affairs and trade policies are embedded with various forms-contexts-constructs, and applications of intangibles assets, ala

  • intellectual, structural, and relationship capital,
  • perceptual – experiential capital, and
  • cultural, sociological, psychological, ideological, and political) capital.

My perspective (familiarity from afar) with foreign affairs and trade is, both generally…

  • represent well-intended – long held rationales and goals with ambitious prognostications of – for particular-outcomes (near term and strategic), and
  • include combinations-of-agenda driven preferences (needs, demands, etc.) for particular – expenditures favorable to particular – sectors and/or influencing entities.

These perspectives progressed (over many years) while engaged in investigative research on-matters-related-to ‘economic espionage’ (EEA – Economic Espionage Act 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-1839), ala

  • misappropriation of IP (intellectual property) and proprietary information (trade secrets) developed – held by U.S. university-based research startups.

Routinely, the ‘publicness’ of suspicions, allegations, and investigations relative to (a.) potential EEA violations, (b.) misappropriation of mission – business – investment essential IP, and (c.) the possible involvement of are sensitive – problematic issues on multiple fronts, e.g.,

  • the involvement of an international student, researcher, faculty member, and
  • potential linkage (inadvertent or purposeful) to and/or support by an international (state sponsored) entity,

These issues routinely prompt debate (for – against) whether or how much ‘publicness’ (is necessary) relative to the suspicions, harms, momentum setbacks, asset losses, and their possible exploitation by international competitors, etc.,

  • including costly ‘reputational harms’ which may materialize to affected research groups, funders – investors, and universities.  

The publicness given to the above may also be influenced by potential EEA violations which experiences suggest (obligatorily) be aligned with multiple government agencies which hold (investigative – oversight) responsibility of EEA matters, i.e., departments of state, justice, and energy, and ‘country specifics’ via the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

U.S. foreign affairspolicy, I suggest, involves inputs of, contributoryroles from,and the value of particular intangible assets, and how, when, whether, the various ways – contexts same are deemed relevant – essential to a particular (business – research) mission, i.e., ala forms of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital which emerge to be developed, converge, and contribute as (valuable, competitive, revenue generating) assets to – for a desired (lucrative, perhaps sustainable) outcomes.

Respectfully, readers are obliged to consider the above in-as-much-as-it-is a universal economic fact – operating reality that

80+% of most business’s value, sources of revenue, brand, and sustainability lie in – emerge directly from ‘business things intangible’, i.e., various forms, contexts, and applications of intellectual, structural, and relationship capital which converge to create – underlie a lucrative business operating culture…

The above represent perspectives that I still research, write about, and consistently contend as a business intangible asset strategist and risk mitigator for 20+ years ala practitioner, author, and consultant.

For these reasons, I learn from the work-research authored by Ben Rhodes and Diana Mutz which I reference below for this post, to…

  • communicate with business leaders and to address more definitively, issues – concerns – risks, etc., which they may sense an obligation to factor and consider from which I
  • develop-write-publish relevant posts @ Business Intangible Asset Blog.

What is American foreign policy? – Ben Rhodes  The World As It Is

Rhodes describes U.S. foreign policy in day in and day out’ contexts, i.e., it’s a trillion-dollar annual enterprise that plows forward like an ocean liner, shaping the lives of people in its wake whether they know it or not…these actions take place on their own momentum, rooted in a vast complex of deployments, alliances, international agreements, and budget decisions that could have been made a month, a year, or decades ago. This reality contributes to occasional schizophrenia, because our (American) foreign policy represents a particular view of U.S. interests at-the-time that particular – decisions were made. We sustain these investments because, on balance, we believe, the return is worth it, even if we occasionally suffer losses, embarrassments, and moral compromises. Our foreign assistance and trade agreements have facilitated rapid improvements in how people live in many parts of the world, including the U.S., even as globalization has also eliminated jobs and entire American industries, and encroached on peoples’ sense of tribe, faith, and nation. So, for any president, the conduct of foreign policy represents a strange mix of managing the circumstances you’ve inherited, responding to the crises that take place on your watch, and being opportunistic about where you want to launch the new initiatives that will leave an imprint on the world.

How some American’s form opinions on international trade? – Diana Mutz  Winners and Losers: The Psychology of Foreign Trade 

Mutz describes Americans’ views regarding foreign affairs – trade…asbeing influencedshaped by perceived effects on the United States as a whole, i.e., one’s feelings about (a.) the trading partner country, (b.) the U.S. political party in power, and (c.) the world beyond their country’s borders.   

Somewhat similarly, most economic explanations regarding foreign trade emphasize (1.) personal self-interest, and (2.) whether individuals gain or lose financially, as-a-result-of foreign trade, e.g.,

  • the way (how, why) some people conceive – think about foreign trade, (and foreign affairs, perhaps) differs from the way most economists frame either, e.g., some Americans may
  • not be (wholly) familiar with how foreign trade – foreign affairs effects them personally, thus they may
  • be inclined to support either if (when) they believe they may stand to gain, or
  • oppose either if they believe they may be economically harmed or disadvantaged.

Mutz’ argues the above represents how – the way many Americans think about foreign trade (and I suspect, foreign affairs as well) and influences one’s ‘psychology of globalization’, ala thinking there must be winners and losers.

Mutz’ research conveys a psychological approach, i.e.,describing wayshow people are inclined – receptive to viewing the complexities of international trade through the lens of interpersonal relations, e.g.,

  • many Americans’ opinions about international trade are rooted in the psychology of human interaction, ala one’s attitudes toward people and countries, but viewed as being dissimilar to themselves and therefore, influence their opinions.
  • the basic distinctions boil down to whether one (a.) believes it is possible to ‘cooperate for mutual benefit’, or (b.) how-whether one views ‘with suspicion’ those who may seem different from themselves.
  • for these reasons, it is not surprising, Mutz argues, that prejudices may be predictors of opposition to (foreign) trade.

Drawing on ‘psychological theories of preference formation’, Mutz finds that, in contrast to dominant economic views related to foreign – international trade outcomes, Americans may view the notion of cooperation for mutual benefit as a competition between the United States and other countries, e.g.,

  • a contest of us versus them, thus Americans may
    • favor trade so-long-as, they see Americans to be the “winners” in those interactions, also,
    • be inclined to view trade as-a-way to establish some manner of (business, cultural, political, etc.) dominance over a (particular) foreign competitor.

In contrast to that, Mutz suggests otherAmericans may view (foreign) trade (policies) are a means of – to – for maintaining more peaceful relations between countries, e.g.,

  • comparable to individuals (business leaders, friends, etc.) who exchange gifts to cement relationships and partnerships, etc., thus,
  • international trade (can-may) be a tie that binds nations together in trust and cooperation.

In addition, Mutz’ book sheds-light-on (a.) how one’s orientations toward ‘in-groups and out-groups’ can influence how one perceives – thinks about trade with foreign countries and (b.) how a better understanding of the psychological underpinnings of public opinion can lead to lasting economic and societal benefits.

  • Diana C. Mutz, Professor of Political Science and Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Author Winners and Losers: The Psychology of Foreign Trade Princeton University Press, 2021), essay published  in Foreign Affairs, July 30, 2021
  • Ben Rhodes, speech writer – deputy national security advisor, President Obama administration. Author, The World As It Is (Random House, 2018)

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