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Learning on the Quick and Cheap: Gains from Trade Through Imported Expertise

  • Markusen, James R.
  • Rutherford, Tom

Gains from productivity and knowledge transmission arising from the presence of foreign firms has received a good deal of empirical attention, but micro-foundations for this mechanism are weak. Here we focus on production by foreign experts who may train domestic unskilled workers who work with them. Gains from training can in turn be decomposed into two types: (a) obtaining knowledge and skills at a lower cost than if they are self-taught at home; (b) producing domestic skilled workers earlier in time than if they had to rediscover the relevant knowledge through ‘reinventing the wheel’. We develop a three-period model in which the economy initially has no skilled workers. Workers can withdraw from the labour force for two periods of self study and then produce as skilled workers in the third period. Alternatively, foreign experts can be hired in period 1 and domestic unskilled labour working with the experts become skilled in the second period. We analyse how production, training, and welfare depend on two important parameters: the cost of foreign experts and the learning (or ‘absorptive’) capacity of the domestic economy.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4504.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4504
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  1. Blomstrom, Magnus & Sjoholm, Fredrik, 1999. "Technology transfer and spillovers: Does local participation with multinationals matter?1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 915-923, April.
  2. Beata K. Smarzynska, 2003. "Does Foreign Direct Investment Increase the Productivity of Domestic Firms? In Search of Spillovers through Backward Linkages," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 548, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  3. Ethier, Wilfred J. & Markusen, James R., 1996. "Multinational firms, technology diffusion and trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1-2), pages 1-28, August.
  4. Markusen, James R. & Venables, Anthony J., 1999. "Foreign direct investment as a catalyst for industrial development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 335-356, February.
  5. James Markusen & Thomas Rutherford & David Tarr, 2005. "Trade and direct investment in producer services and the domestic market for expertise," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(3), pages 758-777, August.
  6. Hall, Bronwyn H. & Khan, Beethika, 2003. "Adoption of New Technology," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt3wg4p528, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  7. Glass, Amy Jocelyn & Saggi, Kamal, 2002. " Multinational Firms and Technology Transfer," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(4), pages 495-513, December.
  8. Fosfuri, Andrea & Motta, Massimo & Ronde, Thomas, 2001. "Foreign direct investment and spillovers through workers' mobility," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 205-222, February.
  9. Keller, Wolfgang, 2000. "Do Trade Patterns and Technology Flows Affect Productivity Growth?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 14(1), pages 17-47, January.
  10. Markusen, James R., 2001. "Contracts, intellectual property rights, and multinational investment in developing countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 189-204, February.
  11. Wolfgang Keller, 1997. "Are International R&D Spillovers Trade-Related? Analyzing Spillovers Among Randomly Matched Trade Partners," NBER Working Papers 6065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Wolfgang Keller, 2000. "Geographic Localization of International Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 7509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. James R. Markusen & Thomas F. Rutherford & David Tarr, 2000. "Foreign Direct Investments in Services and the Domestic Market for Expertise," NBER Working Papers 7700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Gong, Guan & Keller, Wolfgang, 2003. "Convergence and polarization in global income levels: a review of recent results on the role of international technology diffusion," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1055-1079, June.
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