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The International Problem

This Guest Post is from Will Donovan of Paystream Advisors of USA

I read recently that it take the average British citizen 40 days to get a Visa to the United States. 40 days! England, our time honored ally pretty much since the end of the War of 1812, a country that speaks the same language, has heavier-handed privacy laws (not to mention the practical elimination of rabies), is required, as a whole, to waste over a month getting a Visa to the United States of America. Wow.

Imagine how long it must take most people? Now, I know Manoj is British so maybe I shouldn’t be using the Royal We here – The country that I hail from seems to be pushing the envelope on Visa restrictions and roadblocks to international business in general, and this likely has a whole boatload of obvious consequences.

Not the least of which is the following scenario: “Oh geez, our International Cross-Functional Team needs to do a face to face to fix a minor problem that will be a major problem in three and a half weeks if it doesn’t get sorted out.” “Oh, ok, cool. Where is that Team headquartered?” “The always wonderful Minneapolis, Minnesota.” “Well it’s going to take the British Treasurer 40 days to get a Visa, the Hungarian Controller 60 days to get a visa, and the personnel at the new branch in Dubai three months.” “Oh. Well I guess this is about to be a major problem.”

Ease of mobility is the first rule of business growth, and in a globalized world, it is absolutely shameful that it takes the rest of the world more than a month to be granted access to the United States. Oh, I’m sorry, I am aware that Canada has sort of special rights, but come on…

This whole problem became evident to me the last time I entered the European Union in October having come from Jordan by way of Lebanon. By way of Lebanon! And they didn’t bat an eye. In my own industry, there’s a lot of talk about the possibility of OB10 entering the American EIPP market with a vengance. Well, good luck to you guys, because I hope you like travel-related paperwork. Maybe you can get your system to stop being so good at VAT calculations and start being real good at boiling tea while you’re sitting around waiting.

At a recent conference in Vegas (which will go unnamed) a presenter (who shall also go unnamed) who was a Controller for an international AP functional group, admitted she couldn’t find Berlin on a map, and had a hard time thinking of where Australia should be. She wasn’t kidding. The old joke about Americans goes, “A tri-lingualist speaks three languages, a bi-lingualist speaks two, and a mono-linguist is an American.” Har har. I’ll admit, my poor Arabic wouldn’t get me much farther than ordering a caua arabia ma sucra, and my Spanish failed to get me across town in a Barcelona taxi cab (in my defense the driver was insulted I didn’t speak Catalan), but at least I make an effort, and I think we need to all admit that America, the supposed center for commerce and home of the incredible shrinking dollar, needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

We live in a globalized world, but that’s not really so new. Copies of Maimonodes’ books were found in Pakistan dating to only 20 years after his death. Maimonodes wrote in Spain. That’s pretty impressive. Likewise, I could have rented a car in Spain and driven all the way to Poland, and though the VAT rules would change, at the very least I wouldn’t have been confronted by an angry Italian police officer with a machine gun demanding to see papers (unless I ran somebody over). Now that’s impressive.

The hypocracy was fully obvious to anyone paying attention during the Dubai Ports debacle. Stephen Zunes, in his article in Foreign Policy in Focus, wrote

The hyperbole of some Democrats has bordered on racism, with New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg claiming that the transfer of title of operations at one of Newark’s four terminals constitutes an Arab “occupation,” adding that, “We wouldn’t transfer the title to the Devil; we’re not going to transfer it to Dubai.” In response to criticism of his comparison of the Dubai government with Satan, Lautenberg defended his remarks by noting the failure of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to support U.S. policy toward Israel and Iran.

That’s how we will decide our financial management in America? (and that’s really all it was – The port deal was nothing more than a dollars and cents issue until some morons turned it into the political debacle of the century and the supposed end of Anglo-American civilization) We’ll slam the UAE (which by the way is a serious American ally) and the ten quadrillion dollars we hand them in oil and gas every year because of a disagreement over Israel and Iran when that has quite literally nothing to do with the UAE? And more to the point, we’ve decided to start referring to our good friends in the Gulf that are so integral to our ability to keep our Humvees on the road as the Devil? Now that’s good business!

The international business community, especially those of us who work in the ever-more-complicated global financial sector, needs to start making a serious effort to highlight the challenges it faces when doing business in and with America, and America and its citizens need to start smelling the caua. We need to speak more languages, do more to make internationalists welcome in our country, and we need cut the crap with this “everyone’s a bomb-wielding suspect” routine.

Comments? Leave one then!

Quick note – After the fact, I Found this article at the International Herald Tribune discussing similar issues. 

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