Commercial Diplomacy and International Business: A Conceptual and Empirical Exploration: Volume 9

Cover of Commercial Diplomacy and International Business: A Conceptual and Empirical Exploration

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(17 chapters)
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These structural, economic and political developments in the global economy go a long way to explaining the expansion of commercial diplomacy activities by nations. On the one hand, nations use commercial diplomacy to expand trade and investment in the context of declining economic policy sovereignty. The creation of the WTO in 1995 led to an extension of the rules and regulations of international trade and trade-related matters (including the financial services industry). This leaves national economic policy-making severely restricted. Expanding commercial diplomacy to secure new export markets and new inward investments becomes a necessary political tool for nations competing for new markets. When these new markets are in nations where the formal institutional context for doing business is underdeveloped or non-existent or where much of the economy is under state control, the need to expand and develop commercial diplomacy is all the more important.

In an ongoing process of globalization and technology improvements and due to an increase in worldwide actors in the economic sector, commercial diplomacy is an important tool for countries to support their business community during the internationalization process and afterwards. Nevertheless, commercial diplomacy literature is still in its infancy. Therefore, this chapter reviews existing research on the topic and develops a framework, which integrates the topics examined so far and provides the reader with a more complete picture of the topic at hand.

By means of a literature review, this chapter shows that the body of literature involving research of both disciplines, International Relations and International Management, is still rather limited. As a consequence, we determine a future research agenda and call for more empirical studies, especially in the field of (political) economy.

This chapter presents a study on the work of commercial diplomats as international business promoters at foreign posts. Research has largely overlooked the actual roles and activities of commercial diplomats in explaining the effectiveness of commercial diplomacy and international business support. In this study, it is assumed that commercial diplomats’ behavior is influenced by informal institutions. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 23 commercial diplomats at foreign posts from different countries were conducted and analyzed. The results show three different types of role behavior and differences in proactivity per type. Informal institutions such as background, skills, and experience, cultural differences, and the working environment suggest to explain the differences in levels of proactive international business support behavior of commercial diplomats. Further research is needed to assert these findings.

One powerful public support instrument to support the economic interests abroad is via commercial diplomacy (CD). CD is practice gaining more importance in today's economy, but is poorly addressed in research. The available existing research, however, lack detail on the beneficiary perspective and the value-added function of CD, let alone specific enterprises to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This study contributes to the field of CD by identifying the determinants of the value of CD from an SME (beneficiary) perspective. Out of a random sample of 450 SMEs contacted, 115 of them agreed to fill out a scale-based questionnaire and answer to open questions in the questionnaire. The results demonstrate that the perceived service quality by SMEs of CD influences the overall value SMEs attach to CD. No evidence was found in support of the hypothesis that institutional environment of a host country is negatively related to the value SMEs attach to CD. But we found a negative relationship between the international experience of an SME and the overall value SMEs attach to CD, and a positive relationship between the extent of having foreign public customers and the overall value attached to CD by SMEs. Opposite to what existing literature suggests, smaller SMEs do not attach more value to CD services. Also, for the business network we did not find evidence that SMEs with an established business network attach less value to CD. We did, however, find evidence that SMEs with an established business network attach less value to partner search services. Suggestions for further research are provided.

The global economic power shift towards the East has caused the governments of developed economies to support national businesses which are involved in the process of internationalizing and expanding across borders. Commercial diplomacy provides a means for governments to increase their international trade and to stimulate their national economies. Foreign posts play a crucial role in offering effective diplomatic support for international business. But what are the factors that can explain commercial diplomacy effectiveness at the foreign post level? This chapter presents the results of a survey that was conducted among commercial diplomats stationed at foreign posts. It appears that the amount of experience that commercial diplomats acquired at these foreign posts, combined with their established business network, form two of the most important factors which have a positive impact on the quality of commercial diplomacy. This extends further to include the importance of the client (business) preparedness in terms of knowledge and skills as well. Furthermore, the results indicate that the less favourable a cognitive institutional environment in a host country is, for instance in terms of information availability, the more relevance commercial diplomacy will have. The results of this study promote the understanding of how commercial diplomacy works and show how the debate on the future of commercial diplomacy can be taken a step further. This study should also be seen as a starting point for a holistic framework of commercial diplomacy effectiveness.

Export support is one of the measures countries prefer to use to boost export activities and, consequently, economic growth. However, because the direct outputs are unclear, export support results are often questioned. The current economic crisis raises these questions again. The effects of export support are very difficult to measure, since numerous factors can distort them. We therefore suggest focussing on the performance of this kind of support; in the following chapter, the methodology (export support performance [ESP]) for its measurement is presented.

Government, business support organisations (BSOs), support services and client business firms constitute the key actors involved in the business–government interaction within commercial diplomacy. While businesses are interested in support in their international operations, commercial diplomats (CDs) work towards both objectives: supporting individual firms and promoting the home country's national economy in general. BSOs, public or private or mixed such as bilateral chambers of commerce, sector associations, investment promotion agencies and other self-help business organisations, complete the CD's offer, and are often referred to, and participate directly and indirectly in the home country's trade promotion effort.

The nature of the CD's service to beneficiaries is highly people based, and contains both a consistent amount of government instruction and CD's own personal judgment and initiative in promoting various sectors/sub-sectors and spotting business opportunities. The ‘intermediary’ function of the CD between the beneficiary business and its potential future business partner is important. The interaction may start on either side: the business firm may approach the CD or vice versa. To a large extent, export issues remain the most important enquiries from business to CD vs. other issues such as foreign direct investment, joint venture and debt issues.

From a business perspective the main advantages to use the CD's service are threefold. The CD appears to business firms as the central platform, the starting point to promote bilateral business. Second, CDs enjoy trust as an institution: they are considered credible and neutral (credibility and neutrality). Last but not the least, CDs are found useful in helping out firms in their first steps in foreign markets (not necessarily first exporters but for the firms to which the host country market only is new). The transaction between CD and beneficiary business firm has a material price: some services such as market research are for fee and are often subcontracted. Others being part of a ‘basic service’ of diplomats are free of charge.

Commercial diplomacy within the EU is currently a matter for the individual EU member states (MS). This results in different policies and practices. But to what extent do they really differ? This chapter presents the results of a comparative study on EU MS commercial diplomacy policies and practices. The policy goals and practices of all 27 MS were assessed via document analysis and interviews with commercial diplomats. The findings show considerable differences in terms of the responsible ministry, the policy focus, the network of foreign posts and the work performed at the foreign post. However, countries that entered the EU first seem to have similar commercial diplomacy policy and practices characteristics, as do the countries that entered the EU after 2003. Furthermore, the results of statistical tests show that countries that entered first are similar in size, wealth, share of EU trade, number of embassies inside the EU, number of employees at the foreign post and the activism of the foreign post. These similarities apply as well for the countries that entered the EU after 2003. Overall, this study concludes that home country characteristics (size, culture, government), host country characteristics (institutions, culture, regime) and the relationship between a home country and a host country affect the commercial diplomacy policies and practices.

The US federal procurement market is the largest procurement market in the world. Therefore, it is an attractive market for foreign companies to enter. Existing literature indicates the success factors and barriers for public procurement market entry in general, however not for the US procurement market. To get an in-depth understanding of the US federal procurement market entry process for foreign companies, an expert study was conducted, involving successful foreign companies, procurement market entry consultants, and US government officials. The findings indicate that company-specific factors and product-specific factors can be labeled as “qualifiers,” while relational factors can be labeled “winners.”

The aim of this research is to contribute to the understanding of how commercial diplomats lobby for public procurement contracts. The institutional environment has ramifications for the manner of lobbying and for the practice of commercial diplomacy. This research brings together these streams of literature, and a conceptual model is developed. By means of an in-depth, single-case study, investigating the lobbying activities of EU diplomats in Indonesia, the study aimed to illustrate the model and draw the list of lobbying activities applicable for commercial diplomats. The findings reveal that in a weak institutional development environment, the diplomats focus on informational lobbying and rely heavily on their networks. If the decision-making powers are decentralized, the diplomats target more decision-makers. If diplomats do not have an access to decision-makers then ‘voice’ lobbying is applied. If the decision-makers are not elected, the diplomats do not engage in constituency-building lobbying. The findings illustrate the plausibility of the introduced conceptual model. They also suggest that domestic factors, such as interest in the host country, priority status of the host country and historical bilateral ties can positively influence the lobbying activities of the diplomats as well.

Cover of Commercial Diplomacy and International Business: A Conceptual and Empirical Exploration
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Advanced Series in Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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