3

Policy Issues and Options

The aggregate and industry-specific evidence concerning the impact of Japanese investment on technology transfer between Japan and the United States presents a mixed picture; while technology clearly is being transferred to the United States, information on a number of relevant issues is lacking or incomplete. Future study will hopefully shed more light on the industries examined here and others in which Japanese investment is significant.61 The situation is still evolving, as Japanese companies assimilate their American acquisitions and a wider range of Japanese firms establish U.S. manufacturing and technology development capabilities. The discussion that follows outlines key issues for policy discussion related to Japanese investment and technology transfer to the United States. Clearly, a large part of the current policy debate revolves around the concerns expressed about foreign investment and outward technology transfer. An evaluation of the situation and policy implications of inward technology transfer and Japanese investment must take this context into account.

61  

Some have credited Japanese investment in the U.S. steel industry and the accompanying technology transfer during the 1980s as being responsible for the revitalization of American steel making. See Saxonhouse, op. cit. Also Martin Kenney and Richard Florida, “How Japanese Industry is Rebuilding the Rust Belt,” Technology Review, February/March 1991.



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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop 3 Policy Issues and Options The aggregate and industry-specific evidence concerning the impact of Japanese investment on technology transfer between Japan and the United States presents a mixed picture; while technology clearly is being transferred to the United States, information on a number of relevant issues is lacking or incomplete. Future study will hopefully shed more light on the industries examined here and others in which Japanese investment is significant.61 The situation is still evolving, as Japanese companies assimilate their American acquisitions and a wider range of Japanese firms establish U.S. manufacturing and technology development capabilities. The discussion that follows outlines key issues for policy discussion related to Japanese investment and technology transfer to the United States. Clearly, a large part of the current policy debate revolves around the concerns expressed about foreign investment and outward technology transfer. An evaluation of the situation and policy implications of inward technology transfer and Japanese investment must take this context into account. 61   Some have credited Japanese investment in the U.S. steel industry and the accompanying technology transfer during the 1980s as being responsible for the revitalization of American steel making. See Saxonhouse, op. cit. Also Martin Kenney and Richard Florida, “How Japanese Industry is Rebuilding the Rust Belt,” Technology Review, February/March 1991.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS A basic question is whether lack of information about foreign investment and the activities of foreign firms in the United States hobbles policymakers. How to balance the benefit of timely and complete information about FDI from Japanese and other foreign companies with the tradition of national treatment is another important question. Data collected and published by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis could be augmented and provided on a more timely basis to policymakers.62 Some of the obstacles to enacting and implementing proposed changes can be traced to a reluctance to expend resources on data collection in the current atmosphere of Federal budget constraints. Others relate to differences of view about whether changing the reporting requirements would disadvantage foreign firms doing business in the United States. A number of benefits might be realized from more disaggregated and complete data. For example, figures on trends in productivity, R &D spending and technology licensing at Japanese-owned subsidiaries would be invaluable to a deeper understanding of the actual situation in specific industries with regards to technology transfer. Information on the technological aspects of Japanese and other foreign MNC behavior may also be useful to U.S. government policymakers seeking to promote commercial technology development. While academic analyses and news reports on industry-specific aspects of the technology transfer issue are valuable and not necessarily inaccurate, the evidence remains incomplete and impressionistic. More detailed information would aid the CFIUS process of reviews of investments that raise potential national security problems. The goal of the Foreign Direct Investment and International Financial Data Improvements Act of 1990 was to provide better data without damaging the confidentiality underlying current reporting practices, and with- 62   See Graham and Krugman, op. cit., p. 135-143, and U.S. General Accounting Office, Foreign Investment: Federal Data Collection on Foreign Investment in the United States, GAO, 1989.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop out violating principles of national treatment.63 Some say that there should be more data collection and reporting on the activities of U.S.-owned companies as well as on foreign-owned enterprises, and that better information correlates with better policymaking. 64 But taking action to address these issues could require a commitment of additional resources in order to generate more complete, accurate and timely data. In August 1991, the Commerce Department submitted its first report to Congress under the provisions of the 1990 legislation. 65 NATIONAL SECURITY While the United States has followed an open investment policy, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was established to review foreign investments with national security ramifica- 63   A number of separate pieces of legislation on foreign direct investment data collection dissemination were debated during 1990. For the language of the bill that finally passed in November, 1990, see U.S. House of Representatives, Rept. 101-855 Part 1—Foreign Direct Investment and International Financial Data Improvements Act of 1990, October, 1990. This report gives the following summary of the legislation (pp.7-8): “Some of the key provisions of H.R. 4520, as amended, are as follows: Within 72 days of enactment, requires the Secretary of Commerce to prepare a report, to be annually thereafter, which will serve as a single point of reference about the role and significance of foreign direct investment in the United States... Provides the Secretary of Commerce with improved data on FDI to use in the annual report by amending current law to permit Federal agencies to exchange information. Authorizes the General Accounting Office to critique the first three reports issued by the Secretary of Commerce. The GAO is also authorized to review the data at Census, BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) and BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) in order to report to Congress periodically on trends in FDI. Increases the penalty for failure to comply in a timely and accurate manner with IITSSA (International Investment and Trade in Services Survey Act). Increases the penalties for unlawful access to or disclosure of confidential business information. Prohibits placing any additional burden on the business community, such as requiring additional reporting or disclosure of information, in order to fulfill the purposes of this act.” 64   Ronald Morse, in his presentation on “Policy Alternatives for the United States” at the Workshop on Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of Its Impact. 65   See U.S. Department of Commerce, Foreign Direct Investment in the United States, op. cit.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop tions. The Exon-Florio amendment, which was made permanent in August 1991, provides the President with the power to block foreign investments that are deemed to have a potentially negative impact on national security. A number of questions pertain to the CFIUS process: Should changes be made that provide clearer criteria for evaluating potentially negative impacts? Should mandatory reporting requirements be introduced or are other changes in the CFIUS process necessary? Broader concerns are related to the impact of cumulative investments on the defense technology base and what policy instruments should be used to ensure the viability of the industrial base that supports defense needs. The fundamental anxiety raised by dependence on any foreign source is that access to critical products or components may be delayed or denied in a crisis. Anxiety often focuses on Japan because of the strength of Japanese firms in industries such as electronics, machine tools, robotics and others with clear present and future military applications.66 The notion that Japan's dual-use high technology could be a potent weapon in global geopolitics has become part of the public debate in both countries.67 In the wake of the Persian Gulf War concerns about U.S. dependence on Japan for key components in military systems have been raised. 68 Countries dependent on foreign sources for key components of weapons systems are not only vulnerable to clear threats of technology denial, but can be manipulated in more subtle ways.69 The experiences of countries dependent on foreign sources of technology or goods indicate that there is 66   Though the focus here is on military and dual-use technologies, and Japanese investment, the issue of possible technology denial is broader. See U.S. General Accounting Office, “International Trade: U.S. Business Access to Certain Foreign State-of-the-Art Technology,” September 1991. The report was prompted by charges that Japanese companies in the semiconductor, semiconductor equipment and computer industries deny or delay state-of-the-art products to U.S. companies wishing to purchase them. In confidential interviews, a number of U.S. firms reported such difficulties to GAO, while Japanese companies stated that they do not favor Japanese over U.S. firms. 67   See Shintaro Ishihara and Akio Morita, “‘NO' to Ieru Nihon” (The Japan That Can Say NO) (Tokyo: Kobunsha, 1989), p. 14. 68   See Jacob Schlesinger, “Japanese Companies, in a Nation of Peace, Are Manufacturing the Technology of War,” Asian Wall Street Journal, February 11, 1991 p. 1, and Stuart Auerbach, “U.S. Relied on Foreign-Made Parts for Weapons,” Washington Post, March 25, 1991, p. A1. 69   Comments in this section are drawn in great part from Theodore Moran 's presentation on “Policy Alternatives for the United States” at the Workshop on Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of Its Impact.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop a security threat inherent in the globalization process. The United States has long used technology as a tool in its defense policy. In the view of some analysts, formulating policies aimed at ensuring that the United States will not be sitting on the other side of the table in the future is a worthwhile goal. According to others, however, Japanese investment in troubled U.S. companies in critical industries helps to maintain U.S. defense technology capabilities and is much preferable to letting the U.S. firm in question go out of business. Concretely, military security becomes entangled with technology and Japanese FDI when a Japanese company proposes to purchase a U.S. manufacturer of a product that has an important military application. Concerns can be divided into two basic types. The first is fairly straightforward. The firm being acquired may possess a technology or manufacture a product that represents a “unique capability” or may be part of an industry that is critical to defense needs, small and very concentrated. Under these conditions, the supplier could theoretically delay or deny access during a crisis or transfer the capability to an adversary, impairing U.S. national security in the process. If a foreign company maintains manufacturing capability in the United States, however, the U.S. government could force the subsidiary to supply the product during a crisis. In practice, however, the U.S. government may have little knowledge or control over the level of production or product development a foreign firm maintains in the United States, particularly in the case of subcontracted components. The second issue is broader in nature and more difficult to assess — so much so that some observers assert that no problem exists. A pattern of setbacks in global competition and direct investment by foreign companies may weaken U.S.-owned companies in an industry important to the defense industrial base. Over time, if U.S. technology development and production capabilities in the industry are reduced or eliminated, the capability to respond to a military crisis could be impaired. The continuing debate over the CFIUS process is relevant to both of the national security concerns raised by FDI.70 Although CFIUS has made only one recommendation to block a sale, there have been several other cases in which Congressional opposition or informal signals sent by the executive 70   CFIUS also figures prominently in U.S. policy debate over “economic security,” discussed in the following section.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop branch have caused foreign firms to refrain from corporate acquisitions or takeovers of sensitive operations of U.S. companies.71 Some analysts argue that U.S. policy on foreign investment and the defense technology base may be inadequate to protect against technological vulnerability in the long-term. Theodore Moran proposes a comprehensive set of policy changes to address perceived shortcomings. These proposals are based on the assumption that the primary threat of technological manipulation arises when particular component or product markets are concentrated. If no country or group of companies can exercise market power, the threat of denial or delay is not credible. While it is not necessary that every critical component of every weapons system be made in the United States by an American-owned company, it is necessary to carefully guard against vulnerabilities in products where external suppliers are concentrated. A “4-4-50 rule” could be introduced as a basis for decision-making: If fewer than four companies located in less than four countries control more than fifty percent of the market for the product in question, it may be possible for suppliers to coordinate their actions and deny access. Moran proposes that this “4-4-50” criterion be used by CFIUS to decide whether or not to recommend blocking a foreign acquisition. If the product in question is critical to the defense industrial base and suppliers are concentrated to the extent that four companies or four countries control fifty percent of the world market, then CFIUS should recommend blocking the sale. But what if the acquisition target is the last U.S. company making the product in question and is unprofitable as a result of fierce competition with foreign firms? How will the firm stay in business without Japanese investment? One possible solution would be to link trade protection with the CFIUS review and recommendation process. If U.S. firms come under pressure in a critical industry where external suppliers are concentrated, a “national security tariff” could be introduced. Proponents say that a tariff is more advantageous to the United States than the quotas or voluntary restraints that have been imposed on imports in a number of industries 71   Potential opposition from Congress caused Fanuc to drop its plans to infuse $10 million into Moore Special Tool, a Connecticut machine tool company whose products are “believed to help build U.S. nuclear weapons.” See John Burgess, “Japan Firm Drops Bid for Tool Co. Stake,” Washington Post, February 20, 1991, p. D1 and “Fanakku: Hoden Kakoki Jigyo ni An-un” (Fanuc: Dark Clouds for Electric Discharge Processing Market), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, February 21, 1991, p. 13. Interestingly, the Japanese press report explicitly states that the main motivation on Fanuc's part was a desire to access Moore's technology.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop because the extra charge for the imported good goes to the U.S. Treasury rather than to the foreign firms. How would this system work in practice? In some cases, the “4-4-50” rule would allow more scope for foreign acquisition than there is today, because there would be no grounds to block the sale of even the last U.S. company in a given market if the concentration criterion is not met. One possible benefit would be to reduce the uncertainty that potential foreign investors encounter under the present system. A counter example is the case of photo lithography equipment for the semiconductor manufacturing — an industry which is concentrated and critical. Several years ago, after months of uncertainty, a consortium of U.S. companies agreed to acquire Perkin-Elmer's photo lithography business in order to prevent Nikon from doing so.72 If the “4-4-50” rule had been in effect, it would not only have eliminated the uncertainty over whether Nikon would be allowed to acquire the Perkin-Elmer division, but application of a “national security tariff” to lithography equipment would have either allowed Perkin-Elmer to continue operating the division profitably, or would have made it an attractive acquisition for a U.S. company. A compromise position between unconditional approval and blocking a sale might be to allow a foreign acquisition in a globally concentrated industry to proceed in return for imposing stiff “performance requirements ” on the purchaser, mandating continued R&D and production in the United States. These proposals raise several issues. Economic efficiency arguments favor direct subsidies to domestic firms over tariffs on imports. But it may be easier to exert political control over the imposition of national security tariffs than it would be to regulate the award of large subsidies. Another argument states that protection awarded under these criteria may conflict with the interests of industries for which the protected product is an input. For example, tariffs on semiconductors would hurt U.S. computer companies by making them pay higher prices for chips. Despite these problems, the “4-4-50” rule does have the twin virtues of clarity and coherence. COMPETITION POLICY While much of the debate over foreign investment has focused on national security concerns in the traditional sense, there are a number of issues related to foreign government promotion of high technology indus- 72   "Bei 7sha Rengo ga Baishu” (Buyout By a Coalition of 7 Companies), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, April 4, 1990.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop tries and contrasts in antitrust policy and implementation. One set of concerns relate to the question of whether Japanese investments in small, high technology U.S. companies reflect a conscious strategy of global domination. Will the United States need to adopt more activist policies to promote high technology industry, including restrictions on Japanese investment? Should policies be instituted to promote technology transfer from Japanese investment even if requirements run counter to the open investment approach taken by the United States in the multilateral arena for many years? Some observers worry that our open investment environment leaves U.S. high technology industries vulnerable to targeting strategies of foreign governments or “business-financial combines.”73 Much of this concern is related to the possibility that U.S. industry could fall prey to anticompetitive practices by Japanese companies. 74 Differences in antitrust law and practice are the basis for these concerns. Anticompetitive behavior by Japanese or other foreign companies could theoretically harm U.S. industries in two ways. First, an oligopoly may restrict access to its domestic market or use government subsidies to underprice U.S. companies and drive them from the market. After eliminating the competition, the oligopoly could charge exorbitant prices. Second, a group of companies that are vertically linked in supplier-manufacturer relationships or horizontally linked through financial ties may favor group members over U.S. firms and other outsiders.75 In small or concentrated markets, the result may be to exclude the outsiders altogether or severely reduce their ability to compete. Many assert that Japanese success in the consumer electronics and semiconductor industries can be traced in part to anticompetitive behavior.76 While charges leveled at the Japanese electronics industry have targeted the practices of firms that were ostensible competitors, U.S. negotiators have focused on the practices of Japanese horizontal and vertical business groups, or keiretsu, in the Structural Impediments Initiative (SII) talks. Recent research by Robert Lawrence of the Brookings Institution on the import behavior of keiretsu provides a basis for substan- 73   Spencer, op.cit., p. 2. 74   Robert Lawrence, op. cit. 75   See U.S. General Accounting Office, op. cit. 76   For example, Clyde Prestowitz, Trading Places: How America Allowed Japan to Take the Lead (Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1988), pp. 38-40 and 203-206.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop tiating the collusive behavior of keiretsu, though Lawrence finds no basis for the charge that keiretsu ties lead to collusive export behavior.77 In contrast to the current U.S. approach of multilateral and bilateral efforts aimed at an international harmonization of national competition policies, there are some who argue that a tougher stance is required. The specific recommendations center on revamping Exon-Florio so that the CFIUS process considers “economic security” as well as “defense security.” The Technology Preservation Act of 1991 was introduced in the 102nd Congress by Representative Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.) to address “the failure of Exon-Florio to stop the transfer of technology and production out of our country due to foreign investment.”78 The permanent renewal of the Exon-Florio provision in August 1991, which was favored by the Bush Administration, marked the establishment of a consensus on the issue of review on national security grounds. While there was a lull in Japanese investment activity during 1991, Japanese high technology acquisitions continue to be a matter of serious public debate. Whether review should be extended to include “economic” security and the adequacy of data to assess impacts are the subjects of this debate. RECIPROCITY A final concern is the widespread perception that U.S. and other foreign firms do not have the same opportunities to invest in Japan that Japanese 77   See Robert Z. Lawrence, “Efficient or Exclusionist? The Import Behavior of Japanese Corporate Groups,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Summer 1991. 78   See “News from the Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Competitiveness, Energy and Commerce Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, ” June 12, 1991. If adopted, the bill would: “ Give the President the authority to put conditions on foreign investment...; Would allow a takeover to be stopped so that thorough consideration under Exon-Florio can be given; Make the Secretary of Commerce, not the Secretary of the Treasury, chairman of the interagency committee that investigates the national security impact of foreign acquisitions of U.S. firms; Require that investigations be conducted of any acquisition of a U.S. firm that includes a ‘critical technology'; Allow national security to be interpreted more broadly than is currently the case.”

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop firms enjoy in the United States. Since investment can be a mechanism for technology acquisition as well as transfer, the result may well be to limit the scope of technology transfer from Japan to U.S. firms. Asymmetries in the industrial and R&D structures of the two countries present a context that facilitates the flow of technology from the United States to Japan, and investment policies are part of that context. Over the past several years, a number of large American companies have opened R&D facilities in Japan, and have had some success in gaining access to Japanese technology as a result.79 Japan has somewhat relaxed its traditional restrictive stance toward inward FDI, which was designed to obtain foreign technology yet discourage foreign ownership of business enterprise in the domestic market. 80 At the same time, private arrangements and business practices continue to act as important barriers to foreign acquisition, including, notably, acquisition of Japanese firms that possess significant technologies. 81 Limitations on foreign access to Japanese technology can result in a long-term competitive advantage for Japanese companies. Sony and Matsushita were able to purchase American motion picture studios and thereby gain “software leverage” for future consumer electronics products. But Compaq, the U.S. computer company, would find it impossible to acquire a Japanese company such as Citizen Watch in order to gain access to the precision component technology that it needs to be competitive in the long run. Some believe that if Japanese firms have access to all of the world's technology while U.S. companies only have access to two-thirds, the American firms will lose in the end.82 In certain respects, the policy implications and alternatives are similar to those raised in relation to antitrust considerations. Indeed, reciprocal opportunities for U.S. firms to access technology and vulnerability to possible anticompetitive practices by Japanese companies are closely linked. Policies toward one might imply complementary approaches toward the other. 79   "Picking Japan's Research Brains,” Fortune, March 25, 1991, p. 84. 80   These policy changes have, however, been slow and reluctant. See Dennis Encarnation and Mark Mason, “Neither MITI nor America: the Political Economy of Capital Liberalization in Japan,” International Organization, Winter 1990, p. 25. 81   Mark Mason, from his presentation on “Overviews” at the Workshop on Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of Its Impact. 82   Michael Borrus, op. cit.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop Some argue for a more restrictive U.S. stance on foreign investment as part of a larger shift toward more active government involvement in promoting technology development and competitiveness in U.S. industry. It is argued that continuing traditional U.S. policies toward FDI and relying on multilateral and bilateral solutions will not bring reciprocal opportunities for U.S. firms in Japan. Obviously, the adoption of a more restrictive approach to FDI by the United States would signal a major shift in U.S. approaches to international trade and investment. Proponents of the present approach argue that U.S. companies own many assets abroad and that these “hostages” in practice constrain the use of more restrictive practices here. 83 Further, restrictions on inward FDI — by themselves — may be counterproductive if the ultimate goal is strengthening the technical base of U.S. industry. But if Japanese companies continue to gain strength across the range of high technology industries and the perception of a lack of reciprocity remains, public support for more restrictive investment policies — which is already significant according to polls — will continue to escalate. The demonstration that Japanese investment leads to significant technology transfer to the United States is relevant here. To the extent that proponents of an open investment and trade environment can point to benefits of Japanese FDI, it will certainly strengthen their case. However, “good citizenship” cannot replace reciprocal access in the long run. CONCLUSIONS84 The discussion of policy options illustrates the close linkage between technology transfer concerns and many of the broad issues influencing U.S.-Japan relations. The evaluation of Japanese investment and technology transfer at the NRC workshop illustrates how much we need to learn about impacts as a prerequisite for developing effective policies. Some general points are worth reiterating: The workshop uncovered evidence that in some industries Japanese foreign direct investment has led to a net positive flow of technology to the United States. 83   Kenneth Flamm, op. cit. 84   From I.M. Destler's Closing Remarks at the Workshop on Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer.

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Japanese Investment and Technology Transfer: An Exploration of its Impact: Report of a Workshop It appears that the technology transfer impact of Japanese investment differs widely among industries and these differences should be taken into account by policymakers and business people. Of the three industries examined, the most technology transfer to the U.S. appeared to be in automobiles, the least in consumer electronics. The discussions at the workshop did not uncover evidence of major outward technology flow resulting from Japanese investment in small, high technology companies. However, analysis of the technology transfer effects of Japanese investment in the U.S. semiconductor, semiconductor manufacturing, software and other industries has not been as extensive as analysis of the automobile industry. In a number of industries, particularly high technology industries, the net impact cannot be assessed. This lack of knowledge hinders informed discussion and policymaking. Although encouraging technology transfer from Japan to the United States is important, technology transfer by itself will not solve the technological aspects of America's competitiveness problems. By any measure, the U.S. automobile industry is much more efficient than it was ten years ago. But it has not regained world leadership; the Japanese industry has made great strides as well. Many problems remain for the U.S. industry and technology transfer from Japan is only one lever among many approaches that must be considered. Concern over Japanese investment is often a proxy for other issues. Policy prescriptions concerning technology transfer are a part of the larger “competitiveness debate.” In this context, it will be important to consider when and why U.S. capital opts out of technology development and commercialization here in the United States. In considering differences in the opportunities that Japanese and U.S. firms possess to invest in and acquire technology in the respective foreign setting, it is important to determine whether the problems are due to Japan being closed or to a lack of effort on the part of U.S. companies.