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Global Production and Trade in the Knowledge Economy

Listed author(s):
  • 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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File URL: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/gep/documents/papers/2009/09-07.pdf
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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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  1. Bruce A. Blonigen & Ronald B. Davies & Keith Head, 2002. "Estimating The Knowledge-Capital Model of the Multinational Enterprise: Comment," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2002-13, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 01 Mar 2002.
  2. David L. Carr & James R. Markusen & Keith E. Maskus, 1998. "Estimating the Knowledge-Capital Model of the Multinational Enterprise," NBER Working Papers 6773, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2004. "Trade Costs," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 593, Boston College Department of Economics.
  4. Arnaud Costinot & Lindsay Oldenski & James Rauch, 2009. "Adaptation and the Boundary of Multinational Firms," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd09-059, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  5. David J. Teece, 2003. "Technology Transfer by Multinational Firms: The Resource Cost of Transferring Technological Know-How," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Essays In Technology Management And Policy Selected Papers of David J Teece, chapter 10, pages 262-288 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
  6. 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.
  7. Laura Alfaro & Andrew Charlton, 2009. "Intra-industry Foreign Direct Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 2096-2119, December.
  8. Yeaple, Stephen & Helpman, Elhanan & Melitz, Marc, 2004. "Export versus FDI with Heterogeneous Firms," Scholarly Articles 3229098, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Grossman, Gene M. & Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban, 2011. "Task trade between similar countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5819, The World Bank.
  10. Maryann P. Feldman & Frank R. Lichtenberg, 1997. "The Impact and Organization of Publicly-Funded Research and Development in the European Community," NBER Working Papers 6040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Robert Feenstra, 2003. "Integration Of Trade And Disintegration Of Production In The Global Economy," Working Papers 986, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  12. Irarrazabal, Alfonso & Moxnes, Andreas & Opromolla, Luca David, 2009. "The Margins of Multinational Production and the Role of Intra-firm trade," CEPR Discussion Papers 7145, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Gene M. Grossman & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2008. "Trading Tasks: A Simple Theory of Offshoring," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1978-1997, December.
  14. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni, Jr. & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2001. "Expansion Strategies of U.S. Multinational Firms," NBER Working Papers 8433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. 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.
  17. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond J. Mataloni & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2005. "Vertical Production Networks in Multinational Firms," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 664-678, November.
  18. 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.
  19. Kei-Mu Yi, 2000. "Can vertical specialization explain the growth of world trade?," Staff Reports 96, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  20. repec:adr:anecst:y:1998:i:49-50 is not listed on IDEAS
  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.
  22. David L. Hummels & Jun Ishii & Kei-Mu Yi, 1999. "The nature and growth of vertical specialization in world trade," Staff Reports 72, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  23. Stefania Garetto, 2008. "Input Sourcing and Multinational Production," 2008 Meeting Papers 122, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  24. Helpman, Elhanan, 1984. "A Simple Theory of International Trade with Multinational Corporations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 451-471, June.
  25. 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.
  26. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel Kortum, 2002. "Technology, Geography, and Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 1741-1779, September.
  27. 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.
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