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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. Keller, W., 1996. "Are International R&D Spillovers Trade-Related? Analyzing Spillovers Among Randomly Matched Trade Partners," Working papers 9607, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  2. Bronwyn H. Hall & Beethika Khan, 2004. "Adoption of New Technology," Development and Comp Systems 0401001, EconWPA.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Markusen, James R., 2001. "Contracts, intellectual property rights, and multinational investment in developing countries," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 189-204, February.
  6. Markusen, James R. & Venables, Anthony J., 1999. "Foreign direct investment as a catalyst for industrial development," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 335-356, February.
  7. Ethier, W.J. & Markusen, J.R., 1993. "Multinational Firms, Technology Diffusion and Trade," ISER Discussion Paper 0303, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  8. 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.
  9. Wolfgang Keller, 1999. "How Trade Patterns and Technology Flows Affect Productivity Growth," NBER Working Papers 6990, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Andrea Fosfuri & Massimo Motta & Thomas Ronde, 1998. "Foreign direct investments and spillovers through workers' mobility," Economics Working Papers 258, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  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. James R. Markusen & Thomas F. Rutherford & David Tarr, 2000. "Foreign Direct Investments in Services and the Domestic Market for Expertise," NBER Working Papers 7700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Wolfgang Keller, 2000. "Geographic Localization of International Technology Diffusion," NBER Working Papers 7509, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Glass, Amy Jocelyn & Saggi, Kamal, 2002. " Multinational Firms and Technology Transfer," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(4), pages 495-513, December.
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