A lesson from pineapples

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Since pineapples don't arrive in peak condition if shipped to Europe all the way from Hawaii or the Philippines, Del Monte has just developed a 6,000-acre plantation in Costa Rica to get the fruit to European markets faster. It has created many new jobs, and the first crop is being readied for shipment now. The point of this example is that it takes size, technological and logistical know-how, and economic strength to make a development project of this magnitude succeed. This project alone required an initial investment of $35 million.

My company's increasing activity in the world marketplace is merely an indicator of similar activity by hundreds of multinational companies. Just as we are in your markets, European-based multinationals are in ours. In 1979, foreign multinationals made 467 investments in United States plants. Texas Gulf has just been bought by Elf Aquitaine, France's government-owned oil company. Germany's Bosch and Borg-Warner of the United States have traded shares. France's Peugeot and Chrysler have a joint arrangement. These are all universal manifestations of an increasingly global economy which might lead us toward some form of global economic planning, quite possibly within the framework of the United Nations.

The American business scholar, Peter Drucker, portrays the multinational corporation as an institution which represents the interests of the world economy against all the partial and particular interests of the various members. And I believe he is absolutely right.

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Over the long run, the most efficient allocation and management of the world's resources can best be performed by those enterprises large enough, and with sufficient resources and technology to quickly respond to changes in consumer tastes and needs. During the past 15 or 20 years multinational companies have demonstrated remarkable ability to shift capital, resources and technology to areas of the world that have low costs of production and good market growth potential. Free competition among such companies unencumbered by artificial national restraints on trade and investment make needed goods available to more people at lower costs. And equally important, these efforts by multinationals bring employment which in turn becomes the foundation for further economic progress.

Nevertheless, there is probably a need for an international effort to define the proper role of multinationals and bring them under regulation. Such a pattern might be found in the European Community's plan to have companies register as ''European Companies'' and be subject to the new European Companies Statute, bypassing all national laws. But, whatever forms of governance evolve, I believe the essential ingredient is to have all multinationals playing by a common set of rules.

Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Mounting pressures, whether ideological or physical have heightened the need to accelerate progress toward an interdependent rule of law and an integrated global economy.

I would suggest to you today that the understandable national preoccupation with purely domestic concerns must begin to include greater attention to fundamental international issues. I believe mankind's hope of a peaceful and prosperous future depends on meeting these issues squarely and meeting them now.

The relative priority of international issues is open to debate, but I would suggest that the policy agenda would have to include these issues. The first three issues deal with security -- peacekeeping, nuclear safeguards and the policing of terrorism. Next is worldwide action on energy, food, population, allocation of commodities, economic aid, monitoring and protecting the global environment, and allocation of radio frequencies and space orbits. Finally I would add uniform rules for the regulation of international business, development of a world central bank and completion of the Law of the Sea negotiations to manage resources of the oceans - which, after all, take up two-thirds of the globe.

Eighty new countries have emerged from the postwar dissolution of empires. Many are places of chaos, warfare and hunger. All are in dire need of economic development. And the hour is late.

I would close with what John F. Kennedy told an audience here in Britain the year he was killed:

''There are no permanent enemies. . . . Hostility today is a fact, but it is not the ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God, and our common vulnerability on this planet.''

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