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Open for business in a closed world? Managing MNE nonmarket strategy in times of populism and geopolitical uncertainty

George O. White III (School of Management, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, Michigan, USA and Asian Institute of Management, Makati City, Philippines)
Tazeeb Rajwani (Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)
Thomas C. Lawton (Cork University Business School, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland and Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK)

Multinational Business Review

ISSN: 1525-383X

Article publication date: 8 October 2021

Issue publication date: 9 November 2021




The international strategies of multinational enterprises are increasingly augmented by insights on, and approaches to, external stakeholders and nonmarket dynamics. The rise of populism and increased geopolitical uncertainty have accelerated these efforts, particularly for business leaders anticipating and engaging external agents, events, and issues that challenge the strategic objectives of their enterprises.


In this paper we explain why the increased preponderance of populism and geopolitical uncertainty are concurrently posing an existential threat to the post-Cold War global economy predicated on free trade and (relatively) open borders and, consequently, challenging the structures and strategies of international business.


We provide an overview of the four papers in our special issue and consider how each advances insights on how multinational enterprises effectively navigate the nonmarket uncertainties of the contemporary global economy. We then advance four important areas for international business research on multinational nonmarket strategies: (i) resilience and legitimacy; (ii), diversification; (iii), market and nonmarket strategy integration; and (iv), institutional arbitrage.

Research limitations/implications

We anticipate that nonmarket strategy scholars can build on these themes to assess how nonmarket strategies can better enable multinational enterprises to survive and thrive in an age of heightened global risk and uncertainty.


This paper and the related special issue provides novel theoretical insights by drawing attention to the relatively under-researched realm of multinational enterprise nonmarket strategy, particularly in populist contexts and during periods of geopolitical uncertainty. Importantly, we identify four promising domains – resilience and legitimacy, diversification, the integration of market and nonmarket strategy, and institutional arbitrage – for international business scholars investigating nonmarket strategy to consider. We anticipate that our paper, as well as other papers in this special issue, contribute further momentum to this burgeoning area of research.



We would like to thank the editors of Multinational Business Review for hosting the special issue. We are particularly grateful to Chang Hoon Oh for his most helpful guidance, editorial suggestions, and terrific support.


White III, G.O., Rajwani, T. and Lawton, T.C. (2021), "Open for business in a closed world? Managing MNE nonmarket strategy in times of populism and geopolitical uncertainty", Multinational Business Review, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 441-450.



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