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Global Production and Trade in the Knowledge Economy

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  • Keller, Wolfgang
  • Yeaple, Stephen R

Abstract

This paper presents and tests a new model of multinational firms to explain a rich array of multinational behavior. In contrast to most approaches, here the multinational faces costs to transferring its know-how that are increasing in technological complexity. Costly technology transfer gives rise to increasing marginal costs of serving foreign markets, which explains why multinational firms are often much more successful in their home market compared to foreign markets. The model has four key predictions. First, as transport costs between multinational parent and affiliate increase, firms with complex production technologies and it relatively difficult to substitute local production for imports from the parent, because complex technologies are relatively costly to transfer. Second, the activity of affiliates with complex technologies declines relatively strongly as transport costs from the home market increase, both at the intensive and the extensive margin. We also show that as transport costs from the home market increase, affiliates concentrate their imports from the parent on intermediates that are technologically more complex. We test these hypotheses by employing information on the activities of individual multinational firms, on the nature of intra-firm trade at the product level, and on the skills required for occupations with different complexity. The empirical analysis finds strong evidence in support of the model by confirming all four hypotheses. The analysis shows that accounting for costly technology transfer within multinational firms is important for explaining the structure of trade and multinational production.

Suggested Citation

  • Keller, Wolfgang & Yeaple, Stephen R, 2009. "Global Production and Trade in the Knowledge Economy," CEPR Discussion Papers 7175, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7175
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    Cited by:

    1. Serge Shikher, 2014. "International production, technology diffusion, and trade," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(1), pages 111-154, February.
    2. Alireza Naghavi & Julia Spies & Farid Toubal, 2013. "IPR, Product Complexity and the Organization of Multinational Firms," Working Papers 2013-31, CEPII research center.
    3. Kravtsova, Victoria, 2010. "Identifying patterns of outward foreign direct investments: Some empirical evidence," Journal of Multinational Financial Management, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 1-13, February.
    4. Luigi Benfratello & Tiziano Razzolini & Alessandro Sembenelli, 2009. "Does ICT Investment Spur or Hamper Offshoring? Empirical Evidence from Microdata," Working papers 05, Former Department of Economics and Public Finance "G. Prato", University of Torino.
    5. Alireza Naghavi & Julia Spies & Farid Toubal, 2015. "Intellectual property rights, product complexity and the organization of multinational firms," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 48(3), pages 881-902, August.
    6. Stefanie A. Haller, 2012. "Intra‐firm trade, exporting, importing, and firm performance," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 45(4), pages 1397-1430, November.
    7. Randolph Luca Bruno & Maria Cipollina, 2018. "A meta†analysis of the indirect impact of foreign direct investment in old and new EU member states: Understanding productivity spillovers," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(5), pages 1342-1377, May.
    8. Olena Ivus & Walter G Park & Kamal Saggi, 2017. "Patent protection and the composition of multinational activity: Evidence from US multinational firms," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 48(7), pages 808-836, September.
    9. Carlo Altomonte & Gabor Békés, 2009. "Trade Complexity and Productivity," KITeS Working Papers 016, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Jul 2009.
    10. Georg H. Strasser, 2010. "The Efficiency of the Global Markets for Final Goods and Productive Capabilities," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 766, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 31 Jan 2012.
    11. Shawn Arita & Kiyoyasu Tanaka, 2014. "Heterogeneous multinational firms and productivity gains from falling FDI barriers," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 150(1), pages 83-113, February.
    12. Hoekman, Bernard & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2011. "Services Trade Liberalization and Regulatory Reform: Re-invigorating International Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 8181, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Olena Ivus & Walter Park & Kamal Saggi, 2015. "Patent Protection and the Industrial Composition of Multinational Activity: Evidence from U.S. Multinational Firms," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 15-00014, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    14. Alireza Naghavi & Julia Spies & Farid Toubal, 2011. "International Sourcing, Product Complexity and Intellectual Property Rights," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 067, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    15. Sebastian Krautheim, 2013. "Export‐supporting FDI," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 46(4), pages 1571-1605, November.
    16. Wolfgang Keller & Stephen Ross Yeaple, 2013. "The Gravity of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1414-1444, June.
    17. Keller, Wolfgang, 2010. "International Trade, Foreign Direct Investment, and Technology Spillovers," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, in: Bronwyn H. Hall & Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 793-829, Elsevier.
    18. Yeaple, Stephen Ross, 2009. "Firm heterogeneity and the structure of U.S. multinational activity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 206-215, July.
    19. Ziran Ding, 2021. "Optimal Tariffs with Firm Heterogeneity, Variable Markups, and FDI," Bank of Lithuania Working Paper Series 99, Bank of Lithuania.
    20. Haoyuan Ding & Kees G. Koedijk & Chang Li & Tong Qi, 2021. "The internationalisation of Chinese firms: Impact of FDI experience on export performance," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(12), pages 3609-3640, December.
    21. repec:tur:wpaper:5 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Francisco Moris, 2018. "Intangibles Trade and MNEs: Supply-Chain Trade in R&D Services and Innovative Subsidiaries," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 349-371, September.
    23. Stephen Yeaple, 2008. "Firm Heterogeneity and the Structure of U.S. Multinational Activity: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 14072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    24. Felice, Giulia & Tajoli, Lucia, 2021. "Trade balances and global value chains: Is there a link?," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 228-246.
    25. Jakob B. Madsen & Minoo Farhadi, 2018. "International Technology Spillovers and Growth over the Past 142 Years: The Role of Genetic Proximity," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 85(338), pages 329-359, April.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Factor cost differences; Firm heterogeneity; Intermediate inputs; Offshoring; Tasks; Technological complexity; Technology transfer;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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