Global Commerce causes peace

Global commerce thrives during peacetime. The economic boom in North America during the late 1990s was in large part due to the end of the Cold War and the opening of the formerly communist countries to the world trading system. However, we should also understand the important role that trade and international marketing play in producing peace.

Boeing Company, America’s largest exporter is perhaps the most prominent example. Although many would argue that Boeing’s military sales (aircraft and missiles) do not exactly promote peace, over the years that business has constituted only about 20 percent of the company’s commercial activity. Up until 2002, of Boeing’s some $ 60 billion in annual revenues, about 65 percent came from sales of commercial jets around the world and another 15 percent from space and communications technologies.

Unfortunately, these historical numbers are being skewed by American military spending and the damage done to tourism by terrorism. Even, so, the company still counts customers in 145 countries, and its 159,000 employees work in 67 countries. Its more than 11,000 commercial jets in service around the world carry about one billion travelers per year. Its NASA services division is the lead contractor in the construction and operation of the 16 country International Space Station, first manned by an American and two Russians in the fall of 2000. The Space and Intelligence Systems Division also produces and launched communications satellites affecting people in every country.

All the activity associated with the development, production and marketing of commercial aircraft and space vehicles requires millions of people from around the world to work together. Moreover, no company does more to enable people from all countries to meet face to face for both recreation and commerce. All this interaction yields not just the mutual gain associated with business relationships but also personal relationships and mutual understanding. The latter are the foundation of global peace and prosperity.

Another class of companies that promotes global dialogue and therefore peace is the mobile phone industry. During 2005 more than 700 million new mobile phones were purchased around the world connecting more than one quarter of all people on the planet. Nokia (Finland), the Market leader, is well ahead of American manufacturer Motorola, Samsung (S Korea), LG (S Korea), Siemens (Germany), and Sony Ericsson (Japan / Sweden).

Individuals and small companies also make a difference, perhaps a subtler one than large multinational companies, but one just as important in the aggregate. Our favorite example is Daniel Lubetzky’s company, Peace Works. Mr Lubetzky used a fellowship at Stanford Law School to study how to foster joint ventures between Arabs and Israelis. Then, following his own advice, he created a company that conditions basil pesto from Israel with other raw materials and glass jars supplied by an Arab partner to produce the first product in a line he calls Moshe & Ali’s Gourmet Foods. The company now sells some 60 products in 3,000 stores in the United States and has its headquarters on Park Avenue in New York and business operations in Israel, Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. Again, beyond the measurable commercial benefits of cooperation between the involved Arabs, Israelis and others is the longer lasting and more fundamental appreciation for one another’s circumstances and character.

International marketing is hard work. Making sales calls is no vacation even in Paris when you’ve been there 10 times before. But international marketing is important work. It can enrich you, your family, your company, and your country. At ultimately, when international marketing is done well, by large companies or small, the needs and wants of customers in other lands are well understood, and prosperity and peace are promoted along the way.