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2013.06.10. 13:05 competitive intelligence

Mennyire lehet hatékony az államilag szervezett üzleti hírszerzés a nemzetek közötti gazdasági versenyben? Erre keresi a választ Tiago Rodrigues az iGeopolitics weblapján megjelent írásában.

The original article written by Tiago Rodrigues, can be found on the website iGeopolitics.

 

Beware of the Economic Intelligence Behemoth

 

Spain has announced the creation of a brand new intelligence service in order to support and safeguard the nations economic interests at home and abroad. The Sistema Nacional de Inteligencia Económico (National Economic Intelligence System) will be framed within a law in support of entrepreneurship and internationalization which is about to be approved. The new system will be responsible for the collection and analysis of economic, financial and entrepreneurial  information in order to support the decision making at the state level. To do so it will work in cooperation with Spain’s Center for National Intelligence (CNI), the Ministries of Economy and Competitivity, and Foreign Affairs and Defense.

A core priority of the new system will be to avoid the repetition of juridic insecurity events which have been afflicting Spanish interests abroad over the past couple of years. Among them was Argentina’s expropriation of Repsol majority position on YPF (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales), after it discovered new large reserves of oil and shale gas. The energy multinational Repsol created during Franco’s leadership depends on its foreign presence for oil and gas reserves since refining margins are relatively thin. Similar outcomes have been hitting Spanish companies, as recent as early this year, such as the Bolivian government forceful expropriation of foreign-owned assets from Red Eléctrica, Iberdrola, Abertis and Aena.

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These events unsurprisingly come during a time where Spain, with European Union’s fifth largest GDP, is at hand with a severe economic crisis, a continuously rising unemployment rate bordering 28%, and the consequent lack of hard power to impose its interests abroad. Spain certainly knows it has a lot to lose on its foreign economic assets since it holds quite a few international giants which are core to its economic survival. Among them, are the retail banks Santander and BBVA, Ferrovial, which holds a share of London’s Heathrow airport and manages several international railways. On the telecommunications sector Telefónica is Europe’s largest operator with operations in 14 Latin American countries, and on the industry sector Inditex holds the Zara brand which is present in more than 80 countries and has been expanding its operations beyond the more traditional South-American markets, into Eastern Europe, Caucasus and South-Eastern Asia.

In todays global conjecture, strategic economical intelligence is coming on par with the more traditional needs for security, military and political intelligence. Spain’s move is understandable on the grounds that other states have been actively pursuing such activities for some time now, leaving the unprepared states and enterprises at a serious competitive disadvantage. Many companies, especially those with international presence are becoming aware of the increased risks  that globalisation holds and some even sport small analytical units of competitive intelligence, which focus on the identification of threats and opportunities. An open move from a state nation, however, has far reaching effects since it is better funded and the available resources are able to pursue broader strategical goals, besides  providing for a legal and reputational shield that no private company could afford if things go wrong.

The concept of economic intelligence is not new and has been relatively rooted on Spain’s largest neighbour for some time now. France has since 1997 a School of Economic Warfare (EGE – École de Guerre Économique) which provides for post-graduate education and research into economic security and intelligence. Further in 2011 the then Prime Minister François Fillon issued a circular determining the actions of the state on the matters of economic intelligence. On it one can find the objectives and scope of action: the duty to alert and inform, the valorisation of public research, the development of the influence of France upon the economic international arena, the support of enterprises on foreign investments and exports, and finally act in order to minimise the vulnerabilities of its enterprises.

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France’s reflections on economic warfare stemmed from the need to provide a response to the increasingly aggressive American economic influence in the developing globalisation period of the post-cold war. It acted on the perception of an increase of public and private offensive economic activities which resulted in todays international economic conjecture of hyper-competitivity. On the extremes of these offensive capabilities is economic espionage which no state power can allow itself the luxury to ignore. In the meantime the application of offensive cyberspace espionage activities is placing in the hands of small organised groups and corporate players the capabilities which were once of the exclusive domain of well-funded state sponsored intelligence agencies.

A quick observation on the development of international economic events reveals the dangerous trend that if forming. The US is refocusing on a re-industrialization of its homeland where the priority is “making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing”, with a well funded $1 billion budget in 2013 for the creation of a network of institutes for National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). In Europe, France has fallen into a recession and just announced it will suppress the obligation to publish the financial accounting of 1.4 million very small companies and startups to improve the competitiveness and confidentiality of their activities. Germany keeps juggling over the thin line of avoiding high-debt counties from defaulting while imposing its will on fiscal policies. China continues to pursue an active campaign of economic and technological espionage to safeguard its growth and access to foreign technology and Russia has probably never had such a strong influence of its intelligence apparatus upon its economy.

There is no such thing as purely defensive foreign intelligence systems and the current trend of state sponsored economic security should serve as a “not-so-early” warning signal of a broad return to geopolitical thought by most world powers having their own national interests as their primary objectives. The economical imbalances have on the other hand provided opportunities for some developing counties to challenge the status quo while shifted countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus into survival mode. This is the time for both states and enterprises to be aware of the developing threats and improve on security practices to safe-keep their strategic objectives, planning and intellectual property from foreign prying eyes. Beware of the economic intelligence behemoth for he is a dangerous one. The scales of power are out of balance at the moment and when that happens once forgotten monsters may rise again to shape a new global balance which is more favourable to them.

The original article written by Tiago Rodrigues, can be found on the website iGeopolitics.

Source of the photo: http://magyarszotar.blog.hu/2011/02/28/behemot

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