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International Fragmentation of Production and the Intrafirm Trade of U.s. Multinational Companies

  • Maria Borga
  • William J. Zeile

    (Bureau of Economic Analysis)

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    An aspect of globalization that has attracted increased attention in recent years is trade in intermediate inputs associated with the fragmentation of production across national borders. This trade takes the form of intrafirm transactions when production stages in different countries are performed by vertically integrated units of a multinational firm. Using firm-level data on U.S. multinational companies collected by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, this paper examines intrafirm shipments of intermediate inputs from U.S. parent companies to their foreign manufacturing affiliates. We relate the propensity of affiliates to source intermediate inputs from their parents to characteristics of the parent company, of the affiliate, and of the affiliate’s host country and industry that we hypothesize will influence the volume of intrafirm trade associated with fragmentation. Our results indicate that this trade is positively related to industry and affiliate characteristics that suggest fragmented production, to host-country characteristics that offer cost advantages, and to parent and affiliate characteristics that favor internalized transactions and the active coordination of different stages of the production process. The signs on the coefficients for a number of variables suggest a division of labor between higher-skilled, or more technologically advanced, activities performed by the parent and lower-skilled, or more rudimentary, activities performed by the affiliate.

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    File URL: http://www.bea.gov/papers/pdf/intrafirmtradejanuary04.pdf
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    Paper provided by Bureau of Economic Analysis in its series BEA Papers with number 0035.

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    Date of creation: Jan 2004
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    Handle: RePEc:bea:papers:0035
    Contact details of provider: Phone: 202-482-4883
    Web page: http://www.bea.gov/research/index.htm
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    1. Robert Feenstra, 2003. "Integration Of Trade And Disintegration Of Production In The Global Economy," Working Papers 986, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    2. Peter J Buckley & R D Pearce, 1979. "Overseas Production and Exporting by the World's Largest Enterprises: A Study in Sourcing Policy," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1), pages 9-20, March.
    3. Salvatore Baldone & Fabio Sdogati & Lucia Tajoli, 2001. "Patterns and determinants of international fragmentation of production: Evidence from outward processing trade between the EU and Central Eastern European countries," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 80-104, March.
    4. Andersson, Thomas & Fredriksson, Torbjorn, 2000. "Distinction between intermediate and finished products in intra-firm trade," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 773-792, July.
    5. Robert C. Feenstra & Gordon H. Hanson, 1999. "The Impact Of Outsourcing And High-Technology Capital On Wages: Estimates For The United States, 1979-1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 907-940, August.
    6. Zhang, Kevin Honglin & Markusen, James R., 1999. "Vertical multinationals and host-country characteristics," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 233-252, August.
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