World Libraries, Vol. #2, No. #2, Spring 1992
A Basic Package of Information Sources for Dealing WIth Transnational Corporations
Abstract: Presents a brief summary of the new United Nations publication, Transnational Business Information: A Manual of Needs and Sources, as a convenience to Third World librarians who do not have the manual or who may wish to have a quick approach to the topic and sources. Substantial investments in developing countries have been made by many transnational corporations (TNCs). Corporations that consider such investments in a given country are interested in a number of economic and social factors; it is useful for officials in each country to be aware of those factors and to consider means of improving their situation. Specific reference sources are identified for this purpose. National laws and regulations are also important to the TNCs, and officials may want to examine extant treaties and other legalities–titles for this purpose are suggested as well. Government wishing to approach a TNC for possible negotiation will have use for certain sources that give factual summaries on each firm. Other information on TNCs is available from the United Nations Centre for Transnational Corporations.
A recent publication of the United Nations, Centre for Transnational Corporations (UNCTN), has great potential value for governments in developing countries. It is Transnational Business Information; A Manual of Needs and Sources (Sales No. E.91.II.A.13; 1991. 216 p. $45.00.) This volume ought to be acquired by all libraries that serve the government agencies of developing countries. Third World Libraries offers here a selection of the sources identified in that book, as a convenience to librarians who do not have the Centre’s volume or who may wish to have a brief approach to the topic and the sources. Librarians in the Third World may write to request a gratis copy of the Manual. The address is United Nations, Centre for Transnational Corporations, New York 10017.
Development efforts in certain Third World nations have been greatly assisted by the participation of Transnational Corporations (TNCs). For example Tanzania has attracted substantial investment by foreign oil companies. “TNCs also enjoy a dominant position in nonfuel minerals in some lowincome developing countries, for instance, in copper in Botswana and Zaire, and bauxite in Ghana and Guinea” (198). Not all TNCs are based in the most affluent countries. Indian companies, for example, have undertaken projects, mainly joint ventures, in Bangladesh, Botswana, Kenya, Nepal, and elsewhere. While the overall investment of TNCs in poorer countries has not been enormous, it may represent in a given country — a key to important benefits.
Usually TNCs have been instrumental in promoting exports and in technology transfer. The gains from the latter activity are not readily measurable, but should clearly be worth seeking in terms of long–term national development. A TNC contract may also result in the supply of machinery and management services.
A Third World national library, or other major research institution, is in a position to assist its government in negotiating with TNCs. The fact of the matter is that a sizeable information base is necessary for such negotiations to be successful. In this essay, certain information sources are identified as having high value for this purpose. They are taken from the UN manual cited.
Before listing these sources, it is worth considering the means of acquiring them. Libraries in the Third World are not likely to have large acquisition budgets. A few possibilities suggest themselves. Gratis distribution of individual books and documents may be requested directly from the publishers. Groups of titles or individual titles may be requested from an appropriate book distribution agency in the United Kingdom or other countries where such agencies operate. (See Third World Libraries 1–1(1990), pp. 42–46, for a number of agencies that sponsor free distributions.) Based on the prospect of downstream benefit to the economy, a country’s own government may be willing to finance the acquisition of a block of information sources, for placement in the national library or other major resource center. The final objective should be to possess in a central location the essential documentation for the entire process of establishing a partnership with a TNC.
The extent to which a particular nation is attractive to foreign investors is based on various economic and social factors and trends. Such circumstances are analyzed periodically by several organizations, notably Political Risk Services (PRS), of Syracuse, New York. Publications of PRS are expensive. World Country Report Services, covering 85 countries with a monthly reports, costs $US 5,750 per year. But PRS also distributes regional reports at $195, as segments of the Political Risk Yearbook, each covering an area such as South America, Sub–Saharan Africa, or Middle East and North Africa. Such reports are useful to the government in a Third World country, as guides to possible shifts in priorities that might make their country more interesting to TNC investment. A larger context for such policy decision is the data presentation of the United Nations Statistical Yearbook, selling for $US 100.
It is vital in negotiation between a government and a TNC for the government to offer a package of laws and regulations that will encourage the formation of an agreement. A valuable guide in this respect is the UNCTN series, National Legislation and Regulations Relating to Transnational Corporations (1978– ). Seven volumes have appeared, the most recent (1989) selling for $US 36.
Bilateral treaties form a solid basis for negotiations with TNCs. The UNCTN study Bilateral Investment Treaties analyzes approximately 270 such treaties between developed market economy countries and developing countries. It is available for $US 21.
Just as the TNCs want to know about the conditions in a country, a government will want to know about individual TNCs. The annual directory by Dun & Bradstreet is the most comprehensive source of facts, covering some 50,000 firms in 145 countries; it costs $US 525 in its print version (it is also available online). Shorter, less costly lists include The Fortune World Business Directory ($US 9.00 per year) and The Times 1000 (£ 25 per year). When TNCs of potential interest to a government are identified, correspondence with the firm will bring further information, such as annual reports, without charge.
When a project and a TNC have been identified, and preliminary correspondence has ascertained that there is good prospect for a contract, the UNCTN is available to offer negotiating assistance. The Centre's brochure, United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations Technical Cooperation Program is available on request.
This summary of major sources and what they offer is only a small platform from which a government may view the TNC process. It is important to note that the UNCTN publication from which this material was taken has descriptions of 441 information sources, in print, online and CD–ROM formats. Our intention here is to suggest a small package of information sources that a national library or government agency library could reasonably acquire as a basis for further study. These are the sources mentioned above:
Marco, Guy A. "A Basic Package of Information Sources for Dealing WIth Transnational Corporations." World Libraries, Vol. #2, No. #2, Spring 1992.
© 1992 Rosary College