The U.S. typically grants foreign countries "most favored nation" trading status unless they're run by man-eating Communists. This signifies that they have normal economic relations with the world's greatest financial power and are subject to the same tariffs and legal treatment as peers when their goods enter the country. After its unpopular pursuit of the Iraq war, however, not to mention high-profile corporate scandals ranging from Martha Stewart to Tyco ( TYC), the U.S. now appears to be gaining the status of "least favored nation" around the world as trading partners re-envision their relationships through the prism of animus and distrust rather than amity. The most recent example came last week when the European Union slapped a record antitrust fine against Microsoft ( MSFT), one of America's leading technology companies, for reasons that seem animated as much by anger and suspicion as by a strict reading of law. Yet other examples of the international turn of the screw are becoming apparent, and that should worry investors in U.S. multinational-branded manufacturers and retailers such as Coca-Cola ( KO), Ford ( F) and Starbucks ( SBUX).
Poll: U.S. Popularity Plunges
Not long ago, market research firm RoperASW conducted a survey of 30,000 people in 30 countries that sought to determine foreigners' opinions of the U.S., and found they had undergone a historic plunge. According to a report in the magazine American Demographics, the survey found that only 15% of Indonesians, for instance, felt very favorable or somewhat favorable toward the U.S. That's down from 61% who held that view a year ago. Not surprisingly, Islam-dominated countries had the greatest jump in negative vibes toward things American. But the number of Russians who saw the U.S. in a favorable light also sank 25 percentage points in a year, while the share of French, Germans and Italians with positive feelings toward America fell by 20, 16 and 10 percentage points, respectively. The magazine said the study pointed out that Canadians and the British likewise felt less positive toward the U.S. than in the prior year.