Saturday, June 14, 2003

Although it's a slow blogging day, this little piece of news caught my eye: "Paris Air Show Opens; US Execs Stay Home". It turns out that US defense contractors have decided that the ever-popular 'must go' annual Paris Air Show -- a key opportunity for networking, showing off the latest models and announcing big deals -- is a not-so-must event this year. While certainly the slump in the airline industry is a factor, the fact that not a single top US executive is going shows it's all about politics, not business. To clinch this fact, Lockheed Martin CEO Vance Coffman had planned on attending but pulled out at the last minute due to "scheduling conflicts". He might as well have said he had to stay home and wash his hair.

The General is of two minds about this. On the one hand, it highlights the ongoing dangers of a trans-Atlantic split. Not only are top-level corporate big-wigs not showing up. Overall, US exhibitors are down from 350 two years ago to 183 this year -- a whopping 52% drop. Overall participation is estimated to be down just 5%. US contractors are probably responding less from patriotism than from fear of Don Rumsfeld who has "put pressure on U.S. companies not to attend" according to Reuters. Defense contractors in particular know which side of their bread is buttered, and the Bush administration shows it has no interest in patching things up with Europe, demanding loyalty from US corporations as well.

While this speaks danger in one sense, it suggests more positively that the trans-Atlantic capitalist class isn't as united as it was in the 1990s, and thus not nearly as powerful. That being said, defense contractors are among the least transnationalized firms in the world. Still, the continuing ability of the state to make capital jump is worth noting.

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