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

  • James R. 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.

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Paper provided by Kiel Institute for the World Economy in its series Kiel Working Papers with number 1251.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: May 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kie:kieliw:1251
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  1. James R. Markusen, 1998. "Contracts, Intellectual Property Rights, and Multinational Investment in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 6448, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Wolfgang Keller, 1996. "Are International R&D Spillovers Trade-related? Analyzing Spillovers among Randomly Matched Trade Partners," International Trade 9608002, EconWPA.
  3. Wilfred J. Ethier & James R. Markusen, 1991. "Multinational Firms, Technology Diffusion and Trade," NBER Working Papers 3825, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Keller, Wolfgang, 2001. "Geographic Localization of International Technology Diffusion," CEPR Discussion Papers 2706, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Fosfuri, Andrea & Motta, Massimo & Rønde, Thomas, 1999. "Foreign Direct Investment and Spillovers through Workers' Mobility," CEPR Discussion Papers 2194, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Glass, Amy Jocelyn & Saggi, Kamal, 1999. "Multinational firms and technology transfer," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2067, The World Bank.
  9. 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.
  10. Bronwyn H. Hall & Beethika Khan, 2004. "Adoption of New Technology," Development and Comp Systems 0401001, EconWPA.
  11. 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.
  12. Blomström, Magnus & Sjöholm, Fredrik, 1998. "Technology, Transfer and Spillovers: Does Local Participation With Multinationals Matter?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2048, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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