The problems of trade deficits for the United States are due not only to high wages and complacent management as suggested by Robert J. Samuelson (Editorial Pages, Dec. 26), but perhaps even more important to a lack of export awareness by the great majority of American manufacturers.
Many small- and medium-size companies "don't bother" with export sales because they have a huge domestic market, which they think they understand and that keeps them going for as long as they can be competitive.
Other companies have not standardized their packaging so when quoting to foreign buyers they can not include the cost of freight because they don't know and don't have an easy way of calculating it quickly. Foreign customers are usually annoyed when they can't find their "total cost" from an American supplier.
Credit managers in many companies, would not know how to rate a foreign buyer, do not understand letters of credit and what is even worse, usually, don't want to learn about them.
Export-oriented companies in Italy, Japan, et al., have multilingual personnel to handle communications with foreign buyers. I defy you to call any American company and find a telephone operator who can speak any other language besides English.
There is also a strong tendency to sell in a take-it-or-leave-it approach, particularly when it is required to change operating voltage and frequency or packaging sizes; i.e. gallons to liters, pounds to kilograms, etc.
In summary, only when American companies and put in a situation of "export or perish" will they change their attitude and become aware that there is a market for their products, beyond their national boundaries.
Until then, the United States will have to rely on export management companies, that bring business to American companies in spite of their lack of cooperation, or in spite the U.S. government's interference in the name of political or diplomatic considerations.