Foreign-owned companies pose no threat

One example of particularly misguided rhetoric was recently offered by former South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings (D) on an upcoming auction of radio spectrum by the Federal Communications Commission.  Of concern to the senator is a recommendation by the Department of Justice that he claims would irrationally benefit “foreign” companies.

Specifically, Hollings is troubled that the Federal Communications Commission may, in response to a recommendation from Justice, impose a limit on the amount of spectrum any one wireless carrier can acquire in a given market, an approach he calls “stupid and short-sighted.” Noting that the two companies likely to run up against such limits would be AT&T and Verizon, Hollings argues that we should not rely on Sprint and T-Mobile for these services because they are owned by non-U.S. corporations and cannot be fully trusted.

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There are two problems with this logic. First, the supposition that Sprint and T-Mobile would somehow benefit unfairly from a limit applied uniformly to all participants in the wireless marketplace is flawed. In fact, no one competitor would be advantaged or disadvantaged. Second, Sprint and T-Mobile are heavily invested in the United States, putting them squarely on the same side of the economic ledger as the American economy.  They are global companies with significant business in our country and should not be singled out as a threat simply because they have shareholders that are headquartered elsewhere.

Targeting foreign-owned competition as “unreliable” is a familiar protectionist tactic, but it easily collapses under any scrutiny at all. Foreign investment directly supports over 5 million American jobs, paying U.S. workers over $400 billion a year in compensation, and generating billions of dollars in revenue for the U.S. treasury. Further, foreign investment contributes to innovation, infrastructure, and the development of new technologies. Our willingness to welcome business from around the world on a level playing field with homegrown companies is a strength and a vital component of our ability to grow the American economy.

McLernon is president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment (www.ofii.org), a business association representing the U.S. operations of global companies.