That is because a 30-year window of arbitrage is closing. Firms’ tax bills have been massaged down as low as they can go; in China factory workers’ wages are rising. Local firms have become more sophisticated. They can steal, copy or displace global firms’ innovations without building costly offices and factories abroad. From America’s shale industry to Brazilian banking, from Chinese e-commerce to Indian telecoms, the companies at the cutting edge are local, not global.
The changing political landscape is making things even harder for the giants. Mr Trump is the latest and most strident manifestation of a worldwide shift to grab more of the value that multinationals capture. China wants global firms to place not just their supply chains there, but also their brainiest activities such as research and development. Last year Europe and America battled over who gets the $13bn of tax that Apple and Pfizer pay annually. From Germany to Indonesia rules on takeovers, antitrust and data are tightening.
What of consumers and voters? They touch screens, wear clothes and are kept healthy by the products of firms that they dislike as immoral, exploitative and aloof. The golden age of global firms has also been a golden age for consumer choice and efficiency. Its demise may make the world seem fairer. But the retreat of the multinational cannot bring back all the jobs that the likes of Mr Trump promise. And it will mean rising prices, diminishing competition and slowing innovation. In time, millions of small firms trading across borders could replace big firms as transmitters of ideas and capital. But their weight is tiny. People may yet look back on the era when global firms ruled the business world, and regret its passing Πηγή
The mood changed after the financial crisis. Multinational firms started to be seen as agents of inequality. They created jobs abroad, but not at home. Between 2009 and 2013, only 5%, or 400,000, of the net jobs created in America were created by multinational firms domiciled there (although preliminary figures suggest that job creation picked up sharply in 2014). The profits from their hoards of intellectual property were pocketed by a wealthy shareholder elite. Political willingness to help multinationals duly lapsed.
As a result, the tapestry of rules designed to help businesses globally is fraying. Global accounting, antitrust, money-laundering and bank-capital rules have splintered into American and European camps. Takeovers of Western firms now often come with strings attached by governments to safeguard local jobs and plants.
The seeds of something more
The final element will be perhaps the most interesting: a rising cohort of small firms using e-commerce to buy and sell on a global scale. Up to 10% of America’s 30m or so small firms already do this to some extent. PayPal, a digital payments firm, says its cross border transactions, which include activity from such multinationalettes, are running at $80bn a year, and growing fast. Jack Ma, the boss of Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce firm, predicts that a wave of small Western firms exporting goods to Chinese consumers will go some way to reversing the past two decades of massive American firms importing goods from China.