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Sourcing Patterns of Foreign-owned Multinational Subsidiaries in Europe

  • Ana Teresa Tavares


  • Stephen Young


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    The paper investigates the determinants of the sourcing patterns of foreign-owned multinational subsidiaries in a cross-country European setting. Sourcing decisions (namely, buying locally versus internationally) represent a highly relevant theme for regional and national host economies, given the potential impact these decisions can have on indigenous industrial systems. The subject under analysis attracts considerable attention in regional economics, given the importance of multinationals’ local linkages in generating externalities and technology spillovers and in supporting industrial agglomeration. Additionally, a concern with growing import levels exists, since the globalization of supply chains is creating major competitive pressures for local suppliers, as companies explore global sourcing options. Inter-firm linkages between multinationals and host country suppliers are investigated. The paper is structured as follows: firstly, a thorough literature review on local sourcing, spillovers and regional impact of multinational enterprises is offered. Then, the paper puts forward a general framework of the factors influencing the choice between international and local sourcing, and formulates hypotheses (based on that conceptual framework), on subsidiary roles/characteristics (such as subsidiary age, whether subsidiary was established before or after host country EU integration, entry mode, subsidiary size) and country (home and host) and industry characteristics. Subsequently, an econometric analysis of the main determinants of sourcing decisions is conducted. The empirical setting is multi-country, EU-based. Data result from a large-scale survey of the main foreign-owned subsidiaries in four EU countries (Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK). The main contributions of the paper lie in an improved understanding of the influence of foreign-owned subsidiary strategies and economic integration in sourcing patterns, topics on which little research exists. Important conclusions are drawn on the scope to increase local sourcing through policy intervention at national and regional levels. Major findings concern the impact of subsidiary roles and economic integration on sourcing patterns. Regional and global integration are leading to a greater import-orientation among MNE subsidiaries, including high value-added Product Mandate subsidiaries which are assumed to be strongly embedded within host economies.It was found that economic integration (along with age of subsidiary) has a significant impact on sourcing patterns, meaning that subsidiaries established after their host countries’ EU accession are less embedded via sourcing; and that subsidiaries in global industries buy less locally, as well as subsidiaries located in small EU economies (that have lower supplying capabilities as the local industry is less diversified). Our results did not find a significant association of subsidiary size, home country and entry mode with the import propensity of the multinational subsidiaries surveyed. This research confirms the significant body of evidence that multinationals have seldom developed extensive input linkages with their host economy, and strengthens the conclusion of previous authors that the potential for local linkages is now significantly reduced as compared with the past. The results cast serious doubts on the effectiveness of traditional criteria for investment attraction; and confirm that stimulating local sourcing is problematic. Specific policy implications are developed relating to the attraction of inward foreign direct investment and to corporate development policies.

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    Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa04p575.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2004
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa04p575
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    1. 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.
    2. Paterson, S. L. & Brock, D. M., 2002. "The development of subsidiary-management research: review and theoretical analysis," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 139-163, April.
    3. McAleese, Dermot & McDonald, Donogh, 1978. "Employment Growth and the Development of Linkages in Foreign-Owned and Domestic Manufacturing Enterprises," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 40(4), pages 321-39, November.
    4. Paul M Swamidass, 1993. "Import Sourcing Dynamics: An Integrative Perspective," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 24(4), pages 671-691, December.
    5. Robert Pearce & Marina Papanastassiou, 1997. "European Markets and the Strategic Roles of Multinational Enterprise Subsidiaries in the UK," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(2), pages 243-266, 06.
    6. Mike Crone, 2002. "Local sourcing by multinational enterprise plants: evidence from the UK regions and the implications for policy," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 20(1), pages 131-149, February.
    7. McFadden, Daniel L., 1984. "Econometric analysis of qualitative response models," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 24, pages 1395-1457 Elsevier.
    8. Blomström, Magnus & Kokko, Ari, 1996. "Multinational Corporations and Spillovers," CEPR Discussion Papers 1365, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Holger Gorg & Frances Ruane, 2001. "Multinational Companies and Linkages: Panel-Data Evidence for the Irish Electronics Sector," International Journal of the Economics of Business, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(1), pages 1-18.
    10. Barry, F & Bradley, J, 1997. ""FDI and Trade : The Irish Host-Country Experience"," Papers 97/13, College Dublin, Department of Political Economy-.
    11. John Cantwell & Simona Iammarino, 2000. "Multinational Corporations and the Location of Technological Innovation in the UK Regions," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(4), pages 317-332.
    12. Mike Crone & Stephen Roper, 2001. "Local Learning from Multinational Plants: Knowledge Transfers in the Supply Chain," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(6), pages 535-548.
    13. David L Levy, 1995. "International Sourcing and Supply Chain Stability," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 26(2), pages 343-360, June.
    14. James H Taggart, 1997. "Autonomy and Procedural Justice: A Framework for Evaluating Subsidiary Strategy," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 28(1), pages 51-76, March.
    15. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-38, May.
    16. Masaaki Kotabe & Glenn S Omura, 1989. "Sourcing Strategies of European and Japanese Multinationals: A Comparison," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 20(1), pages 113-130, March.
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