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Jock O'Connell

Curriculum Vitae and Publications


Jock O'Connell is widely regarded as one of California's foremost authorities on world trade, global economic trends, and the internationalization of the Golden State's economy. A former advisor to the California Commission for Economic Development, he is now a private consultant specializing in the analysis of economic and political trends affecting international commerce. He is also the author of numerous articles on economic, political and trade issues that have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News, and Sacramento Bee.

Career History: Private Sector 1989-Present

In January 1989, Mr. O'Connell established his own independent consultancy, O'Connell Associates. Initially, the firm worked primarily with small and medium-sized foreign companies pursuing business opportunities in California and other states. The specific tasks involved were: market assessments, development of market entry strategies, identification of potential joint venture partners, site location analyzes, as well as negotiations with state and local authorities. For several years, the firm also published a monthly newsletter, "The O'Connell Memorandum," which monitored developments at the state capitol in Sacramento that were relevant to foreign business concerns. Over time, the focus of the firm's activities shifted to include working with U.S. companies pursuing business opportunities abroad. In September 2000, he became associated with Equitech International Resources, Inc., a California firm with extensive business connections in the People's Republic of China, Thailand and Taiwan.

Career History: Public Sector 1974-1989

Mr. O'Connell's experience in dealing with government agencies began when he joined the California Legislative Analyst's Office in 1974-75 to document irregularities in community college financing. In 1977-78, he was a member of and eventually Acting Director of the Regulatory Review Task Force in the Department of Consumer Affairs. The task force conducted a critical assessment of state regulatory boards and bureaus.

In 1980, he joined the staff of then Assemblyman Mike Gage (D-Napa) as chief legislative aide. In November of that year, he accompanied Mr. Gage on a trip to China which featured a number of meetings at the direct behest of then Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. to facilitate commercial and cultural links between California and China.

In 1981-82, Mr. O'Connell was a senior staff member at the state Office of Economic Opportunity, where he authored OEO's 1982 study, "Poverty in California."

For several years beginning in the early 1980's, Mr. O'Connell was directly involved in developing the State of California's programs to promote exports and attract foreign direct investment. From 1983 through January 1989, he was the international business advisor to the Lieutenant Governor, Leo McCarthy, and to the California Commission for Economic Development. During that same period, he was also retained as a consultant on two major projects for the California State World Trade Commission. He also was asked to assist the Chair of the Assembly International Trade Committee in the preparation of trade legislation.

In addition to counseling many of the state's political leaders on global economic trends and how they were affecting California, Mr. O'Connell authored "An International Trade Policy for California" in 1986 for the California Commission for Economic Development and co-authored "California's Export Statistics," a 1988 study for the California State World Trade Commission.

Mr. O'Connell also advised the U.S. Department of State and government officials from several of California's principal trading partners on issues relating to the state's controversial unitary method of taxing multinational corporations. On behalf of the Commission for Economic Development, he undertook briefing missions to the Far East and to Great Britain in 1985 to inform foreign government officials and business leaders on progress toward unitary tax reform. In a 1985 article, The Times of London identified Mr. O'Connell as "one of the state's leading experts on the politics of the unitary tax."

Public Activities

While often quoted in the media on economic or trade issues, Mr. O'Connell has himself written and lectured extensively on economic affairs, politics, international trade and foreign investment. Articles he has authored have appeared in The The New York Times along with the Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury-News, and San Francisco Chronicle . He has been a frequent contributor to the Sunday Forum section of the Sacramento Bee. All of his published essays, which are listed below, may be accessed via this website.

In addition to his writing, Mr. O'Connell has spoken before many business groups and other organizations over the years. Among the more prominent audiences he has addressed have been: the Institute for USA and Canada Studies in Moscow; Japan's Keidanren in Tokyo; the Confederation of British Industry in London; the Foreign Trade Association of Southern California in Los Angeles; and the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. Mr. O'Connell has also been invited to participate as a guest speaker at a number of international conferences and symposia. These include: East-West, a 1990 symposium in Linz, Austria on the topic of doing business in Eastern Europe; UTEC 1993, Europe's largest annual conference and trade show devoted to environmental technology; and a 1995 European Union symposium on small business development programs held in Oslo, Norway, where Mr. O'Connell was invited to give the keynote address.

Locally, Mr. O'Connell has been an active participant in efforts by leading business and political figures in the Sacramento region to develop a consensus for guiding the region's future growth and economic development.

Academic Credentials

He received his A.B. in political science from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts and later pursued a doctoral degree in international relations at the University of California at Davis. He has also studied at the Institute of European Studies (University of Vienna) in Austria and at the London School of Economics, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.

He has been a lecturer at the University of California at Davis and at California State University, Sacramento.

Personal Information

The son of a labor union leader, Mr. O'Connell was born on 8 December 1947 in Portland, Maine. He grew up in that city and attended public schools before graduating from Cheverus, a Jesuit preparatory school in Portland. He is an avid sea-kayaker and an occasional book reviewer. He moved to California in 1970.

Jock O'Connell

Near Cobh, Ireland


" Bush's Unilateralism vs. Business's Multilateralism: A Brewing Clash of Cultures? "

September 17, 2002. Publication pending.

" The Myth of Regionalism "

August 25, 2002. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum section. A critical commentary on efforts of 'civic entrepreneurs' to build a stronger sense of regional identity among residents of the six-county Capitol Region centered on Sacramento, California.

" A Trade Policy for Maine: Building Enduring Business-to-Business Ties "

August 15, 2002. Portland [Maine] Press Herald Maine Voices column. Why Maine's economy is apt to benefit more from a policy of fostering enduring cross-border businesslinks than from traditional export promotion programs.

" The Dollar Doldrums and California's Budget Crisis "

July 7, 2002. Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion section. How the dollar's continuing depreciation will likely affect California's ongoing budget woes.

" California's Foreign Trade Offices: A Mission Implausible. "

June 9, 2002. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum. Why California should abandon its failed experiment with foreign trade offices.

" Global competition imperils farmers: California can't grow cheaper specialty crops, but it could aim for an upscale market. "

May 19, 2002. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum, with James R. King. Why California policymakers should be paying closer attention to competition from foreign specialty crop growers and one way Golden State farmers can remain competitive in the global market.

" Bush’s plan for a Western Hemispheric trade pact: Don’t bet the farm on it."

February 3, 2002. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum. President Bush's ambitious plan to extend NAFTA into Central and South America faces some monumental hurdles.

" Is World Trade the Next casualty? 9-11 and hard times in the economy may have doomed globalization. "

November 4, 2001. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum. If the World Trade Organization summit that begins in Qatar later this week fails to yield any appreciable progress in establishing a workable negotiating framework for further trade liberalization, globalization could go the same way as the similarly ballyhooed New Economy.

" Here's To You, Ed Norton. "

Comstock's Business magazine, November 2001 issue. It's not a reliable electricity supply that distinguishes California from a Third World country quite as much as it's our sewer system. So this article takes an up-close look at what moves beneath the streets of Sacramento.

" What's in a Trade Statistic? Less and Less. "

August 19, 2001. Los Angeles Times Opinion section. Why export-import data are becoming increasingly misleading barometers of international commerce.

" Globalization and the Perils of Farming in California's Central Valley. "

July 29, 2001. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum section. This commentary raises questions about government policies that assume agriculture will remain the dominant industry in California's Central Valley for the foreseeable future. Already imperiled by a host of domestic problems such as rising costs, lower crop prices, urban sprawl, water shortages, and resistance to pesiticide use, the region's growers are now facing more aggressive foreign competition for markets here and abroad.

" Flying In the Face of Reality. "

May 16, 2001. San Francisco Chronicle. This op-ed argues for establishment of a broad-based business coalition to support the air transport needs of the Bay Area's economy.

" The Future of the Sacramento Region's Economy is Literally Up in the Air. "

May 2001 issue. Comstock's Business magazine. This article describes the growing air transport needs of the Sacramento region.

" On Administering Baseball's First Rites "

April 1, 2001. Sacramento Bee Sunday Forum section. Commemorating the opening day of the 2001 major league baseball season, a memoir of the day my father took me to see my first big league game forty-one years ago as the Boston Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees in Fenway Park.

" To Fly High, California's Economy Must First Get Airborne. "

March 25, 2001. Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion section. "It's a familiar sight on the front page and the evening news: Crowds of exasperated and angry passengers, stranded by flight delays or cancellations, milling around the airport. Yet, while stranded airline-ticket holders get the attention, the frustration of businesses trying to negotiate the same over-stressed air transportation system to get their goods to market is virtually ignored. That's regrettable, because deficiencies in air-freight operations hurt the economy much more than hordes of disgruntled holiday travelers."

" Suzanne Vaupel: A Conscientious Capitalist. "

February 2001 issue of Comstock's Business magazine. A profile of one of the world's leading figures in the field of organic food.

" Hubris Strikes Again: Lessons From the Quackenbush Affair. "

December 2000 issue of Comstock's Business magazine. This article examines how state officials have been gingerly responding to the scandal over the abuse of power and the misuse of funds that brought down California's elected Insurance Commissioner, Charles ("Chuck") Quackenbush last summer.

" California's Foreign Trade Offices Are More Politics Than Business. "

November 12, 2000. Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion section. "In a move straight of out the Jerry Brown playbook, Gov. Gray Davis stunned the international business and diplomatic communities earlier this month when he abruptly canceled a Far Eastern trade mission a mere week before its scheduled departure. His excuse -- that the state's long-simmering electricity supply crisis demands he remain close to home -- persuaded no one. Whatever the real reasons for scrubbing the mission, the episode reinforces an image of an administration whose handling of state trade policy and programs has been remarkably clumsy and cavalier..."

"Yet Another Modest Proposal: Resolving the Riddle of Campaign Finance Reform. "

November 2000, California Journal. Tongue firmly in cheek, this article advances the argument that the only sure way of ridding the American political system of the corrosive effects of money is to abolish elections.

" The Globalization of Organic Food: California Leads The Way "

October 8, 2000, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum section. Examines how increasing numbers of California farmers -- both small and large -- are turning to organic farming to capture higher prices and burgeoning export markets.

"Time to Open U.S. Borders? Not This Year Vicente Fox finds his neighbors don't share his vision "

August 25, 2000, San Francisco Chronicle, Op-Ed page. Commentary on Mexican President-Elect Vicente Fox's border reform proposals and the challenges facing Mexico's economy.

"Is California Seeking To Fashion Its Own Foreign Policy? "

August 20, 2000, Los Angeles Times, Sunday Opinion section. This commentary examines the potential for huge public pension funds -- notably, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) -- to encroach upon the federal government's constitutional monopoly over the conduct of American foreign policy by denying investment funds to nations otherwise regarded as U.S. allies.

"Chinese Illusions: Central Valley Farmers and the WTO "

August 13, 2000, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. This article assesses the prospects for an expanded export market in China for farmers in California's Central Valley.

"Today's Shanghai: Model of the New China or Potemkin Village? "

August 13, 2000, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. Impressions of modern Shanghai.

"A Tangled Web: When State Agencies Do Business Overseas."

June 2000 issue of Comstock's Business. What have Russian mobsters, Chinese intelligence agencies, Colombian drug lords, and the notorious international terrorist Osama Bin Laden to do with the California Public Employees Retirement System or the California Department of Transportation? Absolutely nothing, we hope. But can we be certain? Not necessarily, according to this article.

"California's State Trade Programs: Economic Assets or Political Props?"

June 2000 issue of Comstock's Business. This commentary argues that the principal constituency for the State of California's export promotion programs -- especially the proliferating number of state foreign trade offices -- is to be found within the walls of the State Capitol and not in the business community.

"How To Plan A Better Infrastructure for 21st Century California."

May 28, 2000, Los Angeles Times, Sunday Opinion section. Co-authored with James R. King. A proposal for improving the manner in which California defines and prioritizes its statewide infrastructure needs.

"California Industry's Growing Reliance on 'Fly-by-Night' Operators."

May 14, 2000, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. California's transportation policymakers are overlooking the vital role of air cargo facilities in supporting the state's burgeoning export trade.

"Southern Exposure: Emerging Business Opportunities in Latin America"

February 2000, Comstock's Business. A look at commercial links between the Sacramento Valley, Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

"A high-tech exodus looms as growth chokes state"

January 30, 2000. Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum with James R. King. Why economic growth may prompt successful New Economy companies to look outside California to meet their expansion plans and what the state can do about it.

"WTO, State Law On A Collison Course"

January 23, 2000, Los Angeles Times Sunday Opinion section. How state laws and international trade agreements may conflict and what California's state government is or isn't to address the issue.

"Has the time come to empower Sacramento's next Mayor?"

January 2000, Comstock's Business . An examination of the pros and cons of adopting a strong-mayor form of municipal government in California's capital.

"My First International Trade Deal"

November 18, 1999. The story of how I sold Soviet propaganda posters thirty years ago to college students in Massachusetts, including an undergraduate named Clarence Thomas.

"What Gov. Davis Really Gained on His Foreign-Trade Mission"

November 7, 1999. Los Angeles Times, Sunday Opinion section. The real value of gubernatorial trade missions.

"The Political Hysteria That Keeps Our State Crumbling "

August 15, 1999. Los Angeles Times, Sunday Opinion section. This article reminds us how policymaking hysteria can upset the best laid infrastructure plans.

"Soft Data on Software Exports"

August 15, 1999. Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. Why one of our fastest growing and internationally competitive industries generates so few exports.

"State's Trade Going South?"

June 4, 1999, San Francisco Chronicle, Op-Ed Page. How either a failure or an unwillingness to understand the limitations of the so-called "state-of-origin" export data has led to a positively absurd political controversy regarding whether California's export trade with Mexico is smaller or larger than Texas's trade south of the border.

"Redeeming Cousin Billy: An Elegy for Memorial Day"

May 30, 1999, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. Challenges the conclusion of a hasty US Air Force inquiry into the December 1952 crash of a C-124 troop transport at Moses Lake, Washington, which fixed the responsibility for the disaster in which 86 lives were lost on the pilot, Lt. William N. O'Connell. The article reveals evidence suggesting a cover-up of the role played in the crash by faulty USAF maintenance procedures and flawed aircraft design.

"Our Own Best Customers: The Role of the Gringo Archipelago in US-Mexico Trade "

May 16, 1999, Los Angeles Times, Sunday Opinion. Published on the eve of President Ernesto Zedillo's official visit to California, this article examines how vital a trading partner Mexico really is.

"California's Foreign Trade Offices At A Crossroads"

May 9, 1999, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. Recommendations for reforming the objectives and administration of California's foreign trade offices.

"Sorry, Pac Bell, But The Phone Is Not My Friend"

March 28, 1999, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. Wry commentary on why I have all but abandoned the telephone as a civilized means of communications.

"California's Latin America strategy based on flawed data"

March 7, 1999, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. Why California's export trade with Mexico and Latin America is systematically under-reported and why the data we commonly use are growing more and more distorted.

"Bring in Da Hype, Bring in Da Euro "

January 24, 1999, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. How obsessions and manias can displace prudent business practices and government policies, distorting California's overseas trade relations in the process.

"Can California's chief executive effectively manage the world's seventh largest economy?"

November 1, 1998, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. This article appeared alongside the economic policy statements of the Democratic and Republican candiadtes for Governor of California on the Sunday before the general election.

"The Old Economist's Almanac (Pacific Rim Edition) "

July 26, 1998, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. An inquiry into the catastrophic failure of economists and market analysts to foresee the economic crisis in Asia.

"Teetering on the Rim: California Feels Asia's Pain "

July 26, 1998, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. How the Golden State is beginning to feel the pinch of its over-dependence on Asian markets.

"How Green Was Our Valley: A Cautionary Tale of 2020 Sacramento "

March 1, 1998, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. A critical discussion of the challenge of regional planning in the face of rapid demographic and commercial change.

"Toward Revising California's State Trade Programs"

October 1997 Website posting. An invitation to a dialogue aimed at enhancing California's export promotion efforts.

"In the Really New Economy, Dinosaurs Dine on Gazelles"

October 23, 1994, San Jose Mercury-News, Sunday Perspective. This article submits that the accelerating pace of mergers and acquisitions in the preceding eighteen months involving California high technology companies undermines the contentions of those analysts who argue that the state's so- called New Economy is based on a proliferating number of small, entrepreneurial enterprises.

"The Gubernatorial Race: So What If It Is The Economy?"

July 3, 1994, San Jose Mercury-News, Sunday Perspective. This article maintains that neither Pete Wilson nor Kathleen Brown will, after being elected governor in November, be able to deal with the fundamental problems besetting the state's economy without first forging a new political consensus defining state government's legitimate role in economic development.

"Does California Really Need Overseas Trade Offices?"

May 2, 1994, San Francisco Chronicle, Business Opinion. This article argues that the value of California's five overseas trade and investment offices has been vitiated by the lack of a coherent export development strategy and by poor administrative practices.

"Bromides and Nostrums: Dubious Prescriptions For What Ails California's Economy"

May 9, 1993, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. A generally caustic appraisal of state government's inability to properly diagnose, let alone remedy, California's current economic ills.

"Is Wilson Bungling California's Efforts in International Trade?"

June 8, 1993, Sacramento Bee. An Op-Ed article critical of both the Wilson administration's failure to fill vacancies in key posts at four of the five California overseas trade and investment offices and its attempts to bureaucratize the functions of the California State World Trade Commission.

"Human Rights and International Trade Policy"

October 3, 1993, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. A dispassionate analysis of the disproportionate share of the national cost which California's exporters and their employees shoulder when the US Government imposes unilateral trade sanctions on other nations.

"Manufacturing a Political Crisis: The Job Flight Controversy"

January 5, 1992, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. This feature article casts serious doubt on whether an allegedly hostile business climate is precipitating "job flight" to other states.

"Japan and the Building of a Fortress Americas"

October 27, 1991. Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. A discussion of how various American interests are served through efforts to represent Japan as a grave threat to the United States.

"A North American Free Trade Agreement: What's Really In It For Us?"

May 5, 1991. Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. An analysis of the likely effects of including Mexico in a North American Free Trade Agreement; argues that most of the benefits promised by advocates of a free trade agreement between the US and Mexico can actually be achieved merely through the increased liberalization of Mexico's trade and investment policies.

"Reassessing State Government's Role in International Commerce"

February 24, 1991, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. A critical review of the state's international trade development programs.

"Federalism and States' Rights in World Affairs"

November 4, 1990, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. An assessment of the potential for conflict between federal officials and state governments in the area of international trade policy.

"Thoughts on a Free-Trade Agreement with Mexico"

June 3, 1990, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. An examination of why U.S. and Mexican officials have come to embrace a free trade agreement.

"State Government's Extra-Territorial Reach"

February 25, 1990, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. A discussion of how state politicians have sought to create a de facto foreign policy for California.

"State Government Ventures Abroad"

January 1990, The Golden State Report. A critical review of the state's international trade development programs in the Deukmejian administration.

"The Changing Face of Communist Europe: New Challenges for California Industry"

November 26, 1989, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. An assessment of how California firms might benefit from economic and political change in Eastern Europe.

"The Procrustean Rim"

September 10, 1989, Sacramento Bee, Sunday Forum. An examination of efforts to create a loose trading bloc in the Far East.

"Comrade Zolotuhkin and 'The Fonz'"

August 2, 1989, New York Times, Op-Ed Page. A personal account of how Russian paranoia affected their analyzes of American social and political trends.

"The Not-So-Great Foreign Investment Debate"

July 9, 1989, Los Angeles Times. A discussion of why foreign direct investment in the U.S. is unlikely to be either a major boon or a serious danger.

"Foreign Investment: The Job Creation Myth"

December 4, 1988, Los Angeles Times. This article raises questions about the enormous benefits often cited by proponents of unrestricted foreign investment in the United States

"Pacific Rim Trade: Is There a There There?"

January 22, 1988, Oakland Tribune. This prescient essay raises questions about popular tendencies to over-emphasize the significance of California's links with Pacific Rim trading partners.

"Books Reviewed for the San Francisco Chronicle"

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