Competitiveness Issues:

The Business Environment in the United States, Japan, and Germany

GGD-93-124: Published: Aug 9, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed government policies, corporate structures, and financial and operating business practices in the United States, Germany, and Japan.

GAO found that: (1) a nation's competitiveness is determined by its productivity and depends upon the complex interaction between government policies, financial relationships, corporate structures, and business practices; (2) a nation's business environment varies between countries and is influenced by historical, cultural, and macroeconomic differences; (3) although the private sector in the United States, Japan, and Germany commonly shares ownership of the primary factors of production and have similar resource decision making powers, their interpretation of capitalism and relationship with government differs; (4) Japanese and German corporate resource utilization, structure, and relationships between management and stockholders varies significantly due to cultural and historical attitudes; (5) while U.S. corporate ownership is divided among large institutions and individual investors that own small stakes in many corporations, Japanese and German corporations are normally owned by a few primary stockholders; (6) while U.S. corporate goals are relatively short-term and attempt to maximize the return to shareholders, Japanese and German corporations emphasize long-term enterprise viability; (7) corporations' financial relationships with banks and access to capital are influenced by government regulation and has significant effects upon a nation's competitiveness; (8) German and Japanese government regulations allow banks to play a larger role in industry; (9) access to international capital has increased due to the globalization of financial markets, technological advances, and national financial deregulation; (10) although antitrust legislation among the three countries is similar, its interpretation and enforcement allows for significant differences in business practices; and (11) although financial deregulation, recessions, budget deficits, and increasing global trade pressures will impact the business environment, businesses in all three countries will operate by global rules and make decisions based on economic rationale rather than on previously accepted practices.

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