By Leif Johan Eliasson (auth.)
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However, despite reforms, labor taxes and social contributions, as well as some labor laws, and bureaucratic hurdles to start a business, remain higher in real terms than in America (see appendix). As the world’s largest export nation in 2009, Germany is worthy of a mention in this context. It specializes in high-quality engineering and high-tech products, from machine tools and drills to cogwheels, much of which is not produced elsewhere, giving it a competitive advantage. 5 Britain Finland Germany Poland Slovenia Japan China Sweden EU-5 EU United States *EU-5 Author’s calculations.
Today European companies are cornering even larger parts of their sectors’ global markets. Finnish Nokia, Swedish Ericsson, or Volvo; Danish Mearsk, or Dutch Shell, Philips, and chemical giant AkzoNobel; Italian Fiat, and Finmeccanica (helicopters), and Spanish bank Santander (larger than American giant Citigroup); food giant Unilever, German Siemens, and BMW are familiar to most, and anyone who flies or has home delivery of packages knows of Airbus (45 percent of large aircraft production; Boeing has an equal share).
The widespread habit of generalizing about Europe has a natural basis: the human proclivity for simplicity. Continuous references to Europe as a whole appears to make sense in the same way we can reference the United States with its 50 states, all enshrined with significant autonomy and different traditions, yet sharing most cultural, linguistic, and legal bases. A region where several seemingly comparable countries share similar cultural traits and languages (Sweden-Norway, Austria-Switzerland, PortugalSpain, Belgium-Netherlands), and coexist under shared external borders, and—for most—a common currency, lends itself to a generic rubric.