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Global Production and Trade in the Knowledge Economy

  • Wolfgang Keller
  • Stephen R. Yeaple

This paper presents and tests a new model of multinational firms to explain a rich array of multinational behaviour. 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 four 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.

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Paper provided by University of Nottingham, GEP in its series Discussion Papers with number 09/07.

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Handle: RePEc:not:notgep:09/07
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  8. Laura Alfaro & Andrew Charlton, 2007. "Intra-industry foreign direct investment," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19690, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  9. Yeaple, Stephen & Helpman, Elhanan & Melitz, Marc, 2004. "Export versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," Scholarly Articles 3229098, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Natalia Ramondo & Andr�s Rodr�guez-Clare, 2013. "Trade, Multinational Production, and the Gains from Openness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(2), pages 273 - 322.
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  12. Arnaud Costinot & Lindsay Oldenski & James E. Rauch, 2009. "Adaptation and the Boundary of Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 14668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Teece, David J, 1977. "Technology Transfer by Multinational Firms: The Resource Cost of Transferring Technological Know-how," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 87(346), pages 242-61, June.
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  16. Ariel Burstein & Alexander Monge-Naranjo, 2007. "Foreign Know-How, Firm Control, and the Income of Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 13073, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Bruce A. Blonigen & Ronald B. Davies & Keith Head, 2002. "Estimating the Knowledge-Capital Model of the Multinational Enterprise: Comment," NBER Working Papers 8929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Stefania Garetto, 2008. "Input Sourcing and Multinational Production," 2008 Meeting Papers 122, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  19. Melitz, Marc J, 2002. "The Impact of Trade on Intra-Industry Reallocations and Aggregate Industry Productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 3381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2008. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1978-97, December.
  21. Head, Keith & Ries, John, 2008. "FDI as an outcome of the market for corporate control: Theory and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 2-20, January.
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  23. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Scholarly Articles 3445092, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  24. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  25. Markusen, James R., 1984. "Multinationals, multi-plant economies, and the gains from trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3-4), pages 205-226, May.
  26. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1969. "Classificatory Notes on the Production and Transmission of Technological Knowledge," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 29-35, May.
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