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Do multinational retailers affect the export competitveness of host countries?

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Abstract

The accelerated overseas expansion of multinational retailers (MRs) over the last decade transformed these companies into major regional and global actors. In this paper we question how MRs arriving in foreign markets affect the export performance of local firms. We develop a theoretical framework that explains the mechanisms by which multinational retailers establishing outlets abroad impact the export performance of local firms and test its predictions empirically for the agri-food sector. The adopted approach draws on recent empirical evidence of the effects of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector and recent developments in the literature on international trade with heterogeneous firms and on trade and intermediaries. First, incoming multinational retailers may increase the overall export capacity of local firms to any foreign market via an increase in their productivity. The growing competitive pressure in the upstream sector, induced by global retail chains, drives least productive firms out of the market and the average productivity of the sector increases. In addition, retail sector FDI generates productivity gains at the firm level: local suppliers of multinational retailers benefit from the retailers’ financial and technological support and become more productive in time. Thus, although the productivity threshold for exporting remains unchanged, some firms reach this threshold and start exporting, while firms above this threshold that experience productivity gains increase their volume of exports. Second, we consider the role of multinational retailers in matching foreign sellers and buyers. With their wide transnational networks of outlets and contacts, multinational retailers can become natural intermediaries between suppliers and consumers in countries where they operate. The local suppliers of a foreign retailer may sell more easily their products in retailer’s outlets situated in other countries, or, with the retailer’s help, identify at a lower cost potential buyers in these markets. Lower export sunk costs for retailer’s supplying firms determines the latter to export larger amounts to destination markets served by this retailer. For other destination markets these suppliers face the same export costs as other host country firms. These effects were first discussed empirically by Head, Jing and Swenson (2010), but only from an empirical point of view. They find evidence of the capability effect, but not for the linkage effect for the exports of Chinese cities. Unlike Head et al. (2010), we use a large panel of countries and data on the world’s top one hundred food retailers. We find evidence of both capability and linkage effects, but the latter does not apply to a country’s exports to the origin country of the foreign retailers it hosts.

Suggested Citation

  • Angela Cheptea, 2014. "Do multinational retailers affect the export competitveness of host countries?," IAW Discussion Papers 106, Institut für Angewandte Wirtschaftsforschung (IAW).
  • Handle: RePEc:iaw:iawdip:106
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    Keywords

    multinational retailers; export competitiveness; productivity gains; transnational networks; intermediaries;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • Q17 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agriculture in International Trade
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business

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