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Criss-crossing globalization : uphill flows of skill-intensive goods and foreign direct investment


  • Mattoo, Aaditya
  • Subramanian, Arvind


This paper documents an unusual and possibly significant phenomenon: the export of skills, embodied in goods, services or capital from poorer to richer countries. The authors first present a set of stylized facts. Then, using a measure that combines the sophistication of a country’s exports with the average income level of destination countries, they show that the performance of a number of developing countries - notably China, Mexico and South Africa - matches that of much more advanced countries - such as Japan, Spain and the United States. The authors create a new combined dataset on foreign direct investment (covering greenfield investment as well as mergers and acquisitions). The analysis shows that flows of foreign direct investment to developed countries from developing countries - like Brazil, India, Malaysia and South Africa - as a share of their GDP, are as large as flows from developed countries - like Japan, Korea and the United States. The authors suggest that it is not just the composition of exports but their destination that matters. In both cross-sectional and panel regressions, with a range of controls, a measure of uphill flows of sophisticated goods is significantly associated with better growth performance. These results suggest the need for a deeper analysis of whether the benefits of development might derive not from deifying comparative advantage but from defying it.

Suggested Citation

  • Mattoo, Aaditya & Subramanian, Arvind, 2009. "Criss-crossing globalization : uphill flows of skill-intensive goods and foreign direct investment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5047, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5047

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jonathan E. Haskel & Sonia C. Pereira & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2007. "Does Inward Foreign Direct Investment Boost the Productivity of Domestic Firms?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 482-496, August.
    2. Eswar S. Prasad & Raghuram G. Rajan & Arvind Subramanian, 2007. "Foreign Capital and Economic Growth," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(1), pages 153-230.
    3. Kochhar, Kalpana & Kumar, Utsav & Rajan, Raghuram & Subramanian, Arvind & Tokatlidis, Ioannis, 2006. "India's pattern of development: What happened, what follows?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(5), pages 981-1019, July.
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    6. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 358-393, March.
    7. Feenstra, Robert & Hiau Looi Kee, 2004. "Export variety and country productivity," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3412, The World Bank.
    8. Phillip Arestis & Michelle Baddeley & John S.L. McCombie (ed.), 2007. "Economic Growth," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3958.
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    11. Coe, David T & Helpman, Elhanan & Hoffmaister, Alexander W, 1997. "North-South R&D Spillovers," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(440), pages 134-149, January.
    12. Borensztein, E. & De Gregorio, J. & Lee, J-W., 1998. "How does foreign direct investment affect economic growth?1," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 115-135, June.
    13. De Loecker, Jan, 2007. "Do exports generate higher productivity? Evidence from Slovenia," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 69-98, September.
    14. Amin, Mohammad & Mattoo, Aaditya, 2006. "Do institutions matter more for services ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4032, The World Bank.
    15. Michael Kremer & Nazmul Chaudhury & F. Halsey Rogers & Karthik Muralidharan & Jeffrey Hammer, 2005. "Teacher Absence in India: A Snapshot," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 658-667, 04/05.
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    More about this item


    Economic Theory&Research; Debt Markets; Emerging Markets; Investment and Investment Climate; Trade Policy;

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • F2 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business
    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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