To discourage foreign imports, governments may enact deliberately burdensome procedures and requirements regarding customs inspection for foreign goods and may impose tariffs or quotas on imports. Additionally, they may specify that a certain percentage of the parts and components used in manufacturing a product be obtained from local suppliers, require prior approval of capital spending projects, limit withdrawal of funds from the country, and require partial ownership of foreign company operations by local companies or investors. There are times when a government may place restrictions on exports to ensure adequate local supplies and regulate the prices of imported and locally produced goods. Such government actions make a countryâ€™s business climate less attractive and in some cases may be sufficiently onerous as to discourage a company from locating facilities in that country or even selling its products there.
A countryâ€™s business climate is also a function of the political and economic risks associated with operating within its borders. Political risks have to do with the instability of weak governments, growing possibilities that a countryâ€™s citizenry will revolt against dictatorial government leaders, the likelihood of new onerous legislation or regulations on foreign-owned businesses, and the potential for future elections to produce corrupt or tyrannical government leaders. In industries that a government deems critical to the national welfare, there is sometimes a risk that the government will nationalize the industry and expropriate the assets of foreign companies. In 2012, for example, Argentina nationalized the countryâ€™s top oil producer, YPF, which was owned by Spanish oil major Repsol. Other political risks include the loss of investments due to war or political unrest, regulatory changes that create operating uncertainties, security risks due to terrorism, and corruption. Economic risks have to do with the stability of a countryâ€™s economy and monetary systemâ€”whether inflation rates might skyrocket or whether uncontrolled deficit spending on the part of government or risky bank lending practices could lead to a breakdown of the countryâ€™s monetary system and prolonged economic distress. In some countries, the threat of piracy and lack of protection for intellectual property are also sources of economic risk. Another is fluctuations in the value of different currenciesâ€”a factor that we discuss in more detail next.
The Risks of Adverse Exchange Rate Shifts When companies produce and market their products and services in many different countries, they are subject to the impacts of sometimes favorable and sometimes unfa vorable changes in currency exchange rates. The rates of exchange between different currencies can vary by as much as 20 to 40 percent annually, with the changes occurring sometimes gradually and sometimes swiftly. Sizable shifts in exchange rates pose significant risks for two reasons:
1. They are hard to predict because of the variety of factors involved and the uncer-tainties surrounding when and by how much these factors will change.
2. They shuffle the cards of which countries represent the low-cost manufacturing locations and which rivals have the upper hand in the marketplace.
To illustrate the economic risks associated with fluctuating exchange rates, consider the case of a U.S. company that has located manufacturing facilities in Brazil (where the currency is reals â€”pronounced â€œray-allsâ€) and that exports most of the Brazilian-made goods to markets in the European Union (where the currency is euros).To keep the numbers simple, assume that the exchange rate is 4 Brazilian reals for 1 euro and that the product being made in Brazil has a manufacturing cost of 4 Brazilian reals (or 1 euro). Now suppose that the exchange rate shifts from 4 reals per euro to 5 reals per euro (meaning that the real has declined in value and that the euro is stronger). Making the product in Brazil is now more cost-competitive because a Brazilian good costing 4 reals to produce has fallen to only 0.8 euro at the new exchange rate (4 reals divided by 5 reals per euro 5 0.8 euro). This clearly puts the producer of the Brazilian-made good in a better position to compete against the European makers of the same good. On the other hand, should the value of the Brazilian real grow stronger in relation to the euroâ€”resulting in an exchange rate of 3 reals to 1 euroâ€”the same Brazilian-made good formerly costing 4 reals (or 1 euro) to produce now has a cost of 1.33 euros (4 reals divided by 3 reals per euro 5 1.33 euros), putting the producer of the Brazilian-made good in a weaker competitive position vis-Ã -vis the European producers. Clearly, the attraction of manufacturing a good in Brazil and selling it in Europe is far greater when the euro is strong (an exchange rate of 1 euro for 5 Brazilian reals) than when the euro is weak and exchanges for only 3 Brazilian reals.
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