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Global Production and Trade in the Knowledge Economy

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  • Wolfgang Keller
  • Stephen R. Yeaple

Abstract

This paper presents and tests a new model of multinational firms to explain a rich array of multinational behavior. In contrast to most approaches, here the multinational faces costs to transferring its know-how that are increasing in technological complexity. Costly technology transfer gives rise to increasing marginal costs of serving foreign markets, which explains why multinational firms are often much more successful in their home market compared to foreign markets. The model has several key predictions. First, as transport costs between multinational parent and affiliate increase, firms with complex production technologies find it relatively difficult to substitute local production for imports from the parent, because complex technologies are relatively costly to transfer. Second, the activity of affiliates with complex technologies declines relatively strongly as transport costs from the home market increase, both at the intensive and the extensive margin. We also show that as transport costs from the home market increase, affiliates concentrate their imports from the parent on intermediates that are technologically more complex. We test these hypotheses by employing information on the activities of individual multinational firms, on the nature of intra-firm trade at the product level, and on the skills required for occupations with different complexity. The empirical analysis finds strong evidence in support of the model by confirming all four hypotheses. The analysis shows that accounting for costly technology transfer within multinational firms is important for explaining the structure of trade and multinational production.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfgang Keller & Stephen R. Yeaple, 2008. "Global Production and Trade in the Knowledge Economy," NBER Working Papers 14626, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14626
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Wolfgang Keller & Stephen Ross Yeaple, 2013. "The Gravity of Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1414-1444, June.
    2. Luigi Benfratello & Tiziano Razzolini & Alessandro Sembenelli, 2009. "Does ICT Investment Spur or Hamper Offshoring? Empirical Evidence from Microdata," Working papers 05, Former Department of Economics and Public Finance "G. Prato", University of Torino.
    3. Shawn Arita & Kiyoyasu Tanaka, 2014. "Heterogeneous multinational firms and productivity gains from falling FDI barriers," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 150(1), pages 83-113, February.
    4. Keller, Wolfgang, 2010. "International Trade, Foreign Direct Investment, and Technology Spillovers," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
    5. Serge Shikher, 2014. "International production, technology diffusion, and trade," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(1), pages 111-154, February.
    6. Georg H. Strasser, 2010. "The Efficiency of the Global Markets for Final Goods and Productive Capabilities," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 766, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 31 Jan 2012.
    7. Carlo Altomonte & Gabor Békés, 2009. "Trade Complexity and Productivity," KITeS Working Papers 016, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Jul 2009.
    8. Kravtsova, Victoria, 2010. "Identifying patterns of outward foreign direct investments: Some empirical evidence," Journal of Multinational Financial Management, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 1-13, February.
    9. repec:tur:wpaper:5 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Stephen Yeaple, 2008. "Firm Heterogeneity and the Structure of U.S. Multinational Activity: An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 14072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F15 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Economic Integration
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business

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