boycott US products
April 27, 2002
By Syed Rashid Husain
For Dawn Online
RIYADH, April 27: Boycott of US products has started impacting
the sales of US products in the region as the campaign is gaining
A Sana'a, Yemen based pharmaceutical manufacturer, recently refused
to establish the Letter of Credit for a container of an antipyretic
active ingredient, after all the terms and conditions were agreed
upon, only because the product was of US origin. Instead, the company
is now looking at Chinese and other options.
Consumers-shunning US products, could eventually hit sales, contributing
to a projected 10 per cent to 15 per cent fall in US exports to
the Kingdom, some Riyadh based diplomats were quoted as saying.
US companies, from Coca-Cola to McDonald's Corp, sold $6 billion
worth of goods and services to Saudi Arabia in 2001 and $3.7 billion
worth to Egypt, two of the region's biggest economies.
The rush at some of the fast food chains, which used to do roaring
business during the weekends, is visibly less. Even a number of
young people, who made up the bulk of the customers at these fast
food chains, have been witnessed avoiding them to some extent. An
employee at a well known American franchised fast food chain admitted
business is low these days. "Today from morning till afternoon,
we had only two customers at our branch." Some people are starting
to avoid American cars also.
In supermarkets, it was noticed that a number of people have begun
to take care of the origin of the product. On a number of Arabic
TV channels, many people ask Muslim and Arab governments to be more
active in helping the Palestinians.
Over the past few weeks, several different blacklists of American
products have been circulating in Jeddah and elsewhere in Saudi
Arabia and other Arab states. A manager of a super market in Safa'a
district of Jeddah was quoted as saying: "Sales of American
goods have fallen by about 20 per cent and this is set to increase
over the next few weeks due to the rapid increase in the number
of people who are joining the campaign," he said.
In the nearby Bahrain a leading supermarket announced it won't
keep US products on its shelves. Consequently sales of the superstore
increased rather than decreasing, as customers started flocking
this particular store. This compelled some other competitors also
to adopt the same policy.
In the nearby Emirates, women and journalist organizations seem
to be on the forefront of the campaign, asking the resident to try
and avoid the US goods as much as possible and instead try alternative
options from other sources.
The campaign to boycott US products is not organized as yet. It
is still spreading by word of mouth. There have been boycott calls
in newspaper columns throughout the region, through internet forums,
pan-Arab television programmes and gathering of friends.
Even the number of people booking to travel to the US during the
summer holidays has slumped drastically. Reports indicate leisure
travel has virtually stopped and business travel has declined by
over 50 per cent. Travel industry sources have been quoted here
as saying that unlike the past summer seasons when there used to
be strong demand from Saudi families wanting to go to the United
States for their summer holidays, the demand is very less now.
For travel to Orlando and other tourist destinations in the US,
during the peak summer period, travellers used to book their seats
much in advance, by late March or early April, the latest. Travel
sources say that in past when would-be travellers came in April;
they had difficulty in finding a seat on flights to the US or make
a reservation for a villa. But now seats are available for travel
to the US on any day in July, the peak of the vitally important
summer tourism season.
Saudi Arabian Airline used to operate two flights a week between
Jeddah and Orlando during the summer. This year so far, the SAA
has not announced a schedule of flights to Orlando, apparently due
to the less number of passengers on the sector.
US companies have been trying to pass on a message to the consumers
here in the Arab world, in order to counter such boycott calls,
that boycotts threaten thousands of Arab jobs and investors. Many
US companies operate in the Middle East through local franchisees
or joint ventures. "We no longer have a lot of allies in media
or government or academia," a senior executive of a US multinational
was quoted as saying here. Their message is definitely falling on