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The Internationalization Process of Firms: from Exports to FDI

  • Conconi, Paola
  • Sapir, André
  • Zanardi, Maurizio

This paper shows that uncertainty can lead firms to follow a gradual internationalization process. We describe a model in which firms are uncertain about their ability to earn profits in a foreign market and must decide whether or not to serve it, and whether to do so through exports or foreign affiliate sales. We show that a firm may first test the foreign market via exports, before engaging in foreign direct investment (FDI). To assess the evidence, we exploit a unique dataset of firm-level exports and FDI in individual destination countries, covering all Belgian companies over the 1998-2008 period. We show that a firm’s FDI entry in a foreign market is almost always preceded by its export entry. More uncertain foreign market conditions lead new exporters to delay FDI entry decisions. Our analysis suggests that exports and FDI, although substitutes from a static perspective, may be complements over time, since the knowledge acquired through export experimentation can lead firms to start investing abroad.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9332.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9332
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  1. Hurn, A S & Wright, Robert E, 1994. "Geology or Economics? Testing Models of Irreversible Investment Using North Sea Oil Data," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(423), pages 363-71, March.
  2. Oldenski, Lindsay, 2012. "Export Versus FDI and the Communication of Complex Information," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 312-322.
  3. Favero, Carlo A & Pesaran, M Hashem & Sharma, Sunil, 1994. "A Duration Model of Irreversible Oil Investment: Theory and Empirical Evidence," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(S), pages S95-112, Suppl. De.
  4. Marc J. Melitz, 2003. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(6), pages 1695-1725, November.
  5. Eric Neumayer & Laura Spess, 2004. "Do bilateral investment treaties increase foreign direct investment to developing countries?," International Finance 0411004, EconWPA, revised 10 May 2005.
  6. Tailan Chi & Donald J McGuire, 1996. "Collaborative Ventures and Value of Learning: Integrating the Transaction Cost and Strategic Option Perspectives on the Choice of Market Entry Modes," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 27(2), pages 285-307, June.
  7. Ryan, Michael & Raff, Horst, 2007. "Firm-Specific Characteristics and the Timing of Foreign Direct Investment Projects," Economics Working Papers 2007,22, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
  8. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 5474.
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