From an article by George A. Carver Jr. in the summer 1990 Foreign Affairs journal:
What effective use can the U.S. government make of its economic intelligence to further America's overall economic and national interests? In the American polity, there is a legally mandated arms-length relationship between the government and the private sector. There are also limits imposed by statute on the degree of cooperation -- even information exchange -- permitted among private-sector elements. Few of America's foreign economic competitors have such barriers, and some of its strongest competitors -- notably Japan -- consider them absurd.
Many Americans, in both private and public life, would consider it highly improper, or worse, for the U.S. government to use its intelligence assets to advance the overseas fortunes of specific American companies. All of America's major foreign competitors, however, consider this attitude quaint or idiotic. The full weight of their governments' diplomatic and intelligence resources are frequently thrown behind their nationals' companies or consortia, especially ones in heavy offshore competition. Indeed, when a British company was competing a few years ago for a major Saudi contract, which it eventually won, even Queen Elizabeth II was flown to Riyadh for a fortuitously timed state visit.
Furthermore, as Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently noted: "An increasing share of the espionage directed against the United States comes from spying by foreign governments against private American companies aimed at stealing commercial secrets to gain a national economic advantage."