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Learning on the quick and cheap: Gains from trade through imported expertise

  • Jim Markusen
  • Thomas F. Rutherford

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 the domestic economy 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 labor 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 labor working with the experts become skilled in the second period. We analyze 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. Classification-

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Paper provided by IIIS in its series The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series with number iiisdp052.

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Date of creation: 20 Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:iis:dispap:iiisdp052
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Bronwyn H. Hall & Beethika Khan, 2004. "Adoption of New Technology," Development and Comp Systems 0401001, EconWPA.
  4. Markusen, James & Rutherford, Thomas F. & Tarr, David, 2000. "Foreign direct investment in services and the domestic market for expertise," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2413, The World Bank.
  5. 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.
  6. Glass, Amy Jocelyn & Saggi, Kamal, 2002. " Multinational Firms and Technology Transfer," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(4), pages 495-513, December.
  7. Beata Smarzynska Javorcik, 2004. "Does Foreign Direct Investment Increase the Productivity of Domestic Firms? In Search of Spillovers Through Backward Linkages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 605-627, June.
  8. 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.
  9. James R. Markusen, 1998. "Contracts, Intellectual Property Rights, and Multinational Investment in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 6448, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. James R. Markusen & Anthony J. Venables, 1997. "Foreign Direct Investment as a Catalyst for Industrial Development," NBER Working Papers 6241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Wilfred J. Ethier & James R. Markusen, 1991. "Multinational Firms, Technology Diffusion and Trade," NBER Working Papers 3825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Wolfgang Keller, 2000. "Geographic Localization of International Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 7509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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