Events of the last year have raised questions about the future growth of international trade. This column examines the role played by ‘global firms’ that both import and export, and are likely to be part of multinationals, in the international economy. In a world of interdependent firm decisions, small reductions in tariffs or trade costs can have magnified effects on trade flows, as they induce firms to serve more markets with more products at greater volumes, and also to source greater volumes of intermediate inputs from more countries. At the same time, policies to restrict imports can end up hurting producers for whom both importing and exporting are a central pillar of their overall business strategy.
Andrew Bernard, J. Bradford Jensen, Stephen Redding, Peter Schott, 22 December 2016
Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Jan Svejnar, 26 September 2015
While there is substantial evidence that multinationals are more productive than domestic firms, the evidence on productivity spillovers remains mixed. This column estimates the effects of foreign presence on the innovation of local firms. It suggests that spillovers from foreign firms to domestic firms are limited to domestic firms immediately connected to foreign firms. Requirements for foreign firms to have significant local content may therefore be justified.
Emily Blanchard, Xenia Matschke, 30 April 2015
Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic shift in the nature of world trade brought about by the unbundling of international production. One implication is that lobbying by a nation’s firms can be partly influenced by a desired to protect their production facilities abroad. This column presents evidence that US imports from countries and industries with greater offshoring activity by US multinationals face distinctly lower trade barriers.
Maarten van ’t Riet, Arjan Lejour, 05 January 2015
The recent actions of the US Treasury to rein in corporate tax inversions leave their rationale largely intact. This column discusses new evidence suggesting that the potential tax benefits of inversions are still huge. The recent Treasury measures raised legal obstacles, but the heart of the problem remains unaddressed. At some point a new technique is likely to be found to circumvent the new measures – just as happened with earlier measures. This is a worldwide problem.
Ronald Davies, Julien Martin, Mathieu Parenti, Farid Toubal, 05 January 2015
Allegations of tax-avoiding transfer pricing by multinational firms are common, but economic evidence is scarce. This column discusses detailed price data for intra-firm and arm’s length transactions that reveals tax-driven transfer pricing, and suggests that it may be reduced by focusing on a small number of large firms in a small number of tax havens.
Ruud de Mooij, Michael Keen, Victoria Perry, 14 September 2014
Multinational companies’ ability to pay little corporate income tax has grabbed headlines recently. This column argues that the details of international tax rules matter for macroeconomic performance – especially in low-income countries. This emphasises the importance of the G20–OECD Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting. However, dealing properly with tax spillovers will require a deeper global debate about the international tax architecture itself.
Theodore Moran, Lindsay Oldenski, 09 August 2014
There is indisputable evidence that manufacturing employment as a share of total employment in the US has been declining. This column argues that focusing on employment masks important signs of growth of the manufacturing sector. Using most up-to-date data, the authors reason that the US manufacturing base is growing larger, more productive and competitive. The expansion of operations abroad by US manufacturing multinationals leads to particularly strong increases in economic activity – including creation of greater numbers of high-paying manufacturing jobs – by those same firms in the US domestic economy.
Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Alain Trannoy, Guntram Wolff, 22 July 2014
Tax harmonisation has been controversial since the establishment of the European Economic Community, and corporation tax proposals are currently on the table in the EU. Although tax competition can be beneficial, tax harmonisation could curb tax competition that leads to the under-provision of public goods or to burden-shifting from mobile to immobile tax bases. As yet, no agreement has been reached on any ambitious harmonisation plan for mobile tax bases. This column explores the possibility of implementing partial tax harmonisation for corporate taxation and the taxation of the banking sector.
Bernhard Dachs, Georg Zahradnik, 06 July 2014
The Global Crisis brought a halt to three decades of R&D internationalisation, in which foreign firms’ share of total R&D expenditure had increased in almost all countries where data is available. However, this column argues that the crisis did not lead to a new global distribution of overseas R&D expenditure, despite the erosion of the EU’s share. The persistence of R&D expenditure is attributed to the costs of relocating R&D and to the autonomy of foreign subsidiaries.
Theodore Moran, Lindsay Oldenski, 04 March 2014
The US has once again ranked among the top two recipient countries for foreign direct investment. This column examines the effects of these large FDI inflows on the US domestic economy. Foreign multinationals are – alongside US-headquartered American multinationals – the most productive and highest-paying segment of the US economy. In addition, they provide positive spillovers to US firms. About 12% of the total productivity growth in the US from 1987 to 2007 can be attributed to productivity spillovers from inward FDI.
Ayumu Tanaka, 20 November 2013
Policymakers fear the negative employment effects of foreign direct investment. This column provides recent empirical evidence on FDI and domestic employment. The results show that FDI has positive effects on domestic employment. Furthermore, our new empirical research finds a non-negative relationship between Japanese firms' foreign activities and their suppliers' domestic employment.
Theodore Moran, Lindsay Oldenski, 31 October 2013
Criticism of 'offshoring' by US multinationals is widespread among politicians. The underlying assumption is that multinational corporations substitute domestic economic activity for foreign. This column presents evidence that foreign and domestic investment go hand-in-hand at the firm level. This suggests that policies penalising firms for investing abroad will hurt, rather than help, the US economy.
Dominika Langenmayr, 08 September 2013
The realisation that multinational enterprises like Starbucks, Google and Amazon pay few taxes has sparked heated public debate, especially in the UK. This column questions whether widespread low tax payments are a sign of tax avoidance. Perhaps an alternative explanation is that multinational enterprises are able to shift profits abroad even if they fully comply with the law due to features inherent in the fundamentals of generic tax codes and the nature of large international firms.
Olivier Godart, Holger Görg, Christiane Krieger-Boden, 29 April 2013
The positive spillovers from multinationals to the productivity of their host-country suppliers are empirically well established. Usually, it is assumed that multinationals aid their suppliers by voluntarily sharing knowledge and cooperating with them. This column argues the spillovers might rather result from blunt pressure by the multinationals, forcing their suppliers to adopt new practices and to adapt to new standards.
Javier Santiso, 22 February 2010
FDI has fallen dramatically as a result of the global financial crisis. But this column shows that the trend for the decade is still up, suggesting a greater resilience of investment inflows towards emerging markets. Emerging markets are no longer considered a remote and exotic category for European companies; they are now a vital part of the “euro-emerging” multinationals.
Laura Alfaro, Maggie Chen, 08 January 2010
Agglomeration effects are important but difficult to measure. This column uses a new database with precise geographical information to investigate the locational interdependence of multinational firms. Knowledge spillovers and capital- and labour-market externalities exert a significant effect on the co-agglomeration of multinational headquarters, while input-output linkages also play a significant role in the case of subsidiary co-agglomeration.
Harry Huizinga, Luc Laeven, 09 December 2008
It is unfortunate and economically costly if taxation rather than the availability of skilled labour or the quality of infrastructure determine the headquarter location decisions of multinational firms. This column suggests countries would do well to eliminate their international double taxation of foreign source income collectively by, for instance, EU-wide tax reform.
Salvador Barrios, Harry Huizinga, Luc Laeven, Gaëtan Nicodème, 17 November 2008
Increased globalization and decreased trade barriers worldwide have led an increasing number of corporations to expand their activities internationally. The authors of CEPR DP7047 examine the effects of host and parent country taxation on the location decisions of these multinational corporations using a range of data from 33 European countries.
Valerie Johnson, 02 June 2008
As the United Kingdom debates immigration and assimilation, what does it mean to be British? This column explores the formation of British identity during the early twentieth century, when British multinational enterprises constituted an informal empire engaging many foreign cultures. History shows a far more complicated sense of “Britishness” than some assume.
Nicholas Bloom, Raffaella Sadun, John Van Reenen, 13 May 2007
The US has experienced a sustained increase in productivity growth since the mid-1990s which has not been mirrored in Europe. The majority of this growth has occurred in sectors that either intensively use or produce IT, but while the IT-producing sectors in Europe have matched the growth of their US counterparts, the IT-using sectors (particularly retail, wholesale and financial services) have not.