National Sovereignty and Autonomy
Some host governments worry that FDI is accompanied by some loss of economic independence. The concern is that key decisions that can affect the host country’s economy will be made by a foreign parent that has no real commitment to the host country, and over which the host country’s government has no real control. Most economists dismiss such concerns as groundless and irrational. Political scientist Robert Reich has noted that such concerns are the product of outmoded thinking because they fail to account for the growing interdependence of the world economy.41 In a world in which firms from all advanced nations are increasingly investing in each other’s markets, it is not possible for one country to hold another to “economic ransom” without hurting itself.
The benefits of FDI to the home (source) country arise from three sources. First, the home country’s balance of payments benefits from the inward flow of foreign earnings. FDI can also benefit the home country’s balance of payments if the foreign subsidiary creates demands for home-country exports of capital equipment, intermediate goods, complementary products, and the like.
Second, benefits to the home country from outward FDI arise from employment effects. As with the balance of payments, positive employment effects arise when the foreign subsidiary creates demand for home-country exports. Thus, Toyota’s investment in auto assembly operations in Europe has benefited both the Japanese balance-of-payments position and employment in Japan, because Toyota imports some component parts for its European-based auto assembly operations directly from Japan.
ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE FDI Effects: Look at the Whole Picture
Some critics of globalization suggest that FDI is an advanced form of colonialism that destroys local cultures in developing countries. What these critics say may have some limited validity, but it isn’t the whole picture. Take Freeport McMoRan, a U.S.-based mining company with operations in West Papua, the former Irian Jaya, Indonesia, where the world’s largest gold, mineral, and copper reserves have been found. Freeport formed a joint venture with the Indonesian government to mine a concession, an isolated tract of land the size of Massachusetts on a remote island, half of which is the country of Papua New Guinea.
Freeport has brought education, Internet connections, world-class health care, and the modern world to the isolated local tribes in West Papua, nomadic peoples who wear loincloths and hunt in the forest. Their traditional, subsistence way of life is threatened, while at the same time, they gain from their share of the operation’s profits, from their increased health care and education, and from local employment opportunities with FCX. Is this colonialism or a kind of ethical investing? See more on this issue at www.FCX.com and www.corpwatch.org.
Third, benefits arise when the home-country MNE learns valuable skills from its exposure to foreign markets that can subsequently be transferred back to the home country. This amounts to a reverse resource-transfer effect. Through its exposure to a foreign market, an MNE can learn about superior management techniques and superior product and process technologies. These resources can then be transferred back to the home country, contributing to the home country’s economic growth rate.42 For example, one reason General Motors and Ford invested in Japanese automobile companies (GM owns part of Isuzu, and Ford owns part of Mazda) was to learn about their production processes. If GM and Ford are successful in transferring this know-how back to their U.S. operations, the result may be a net gain for the U.S. economy.
Against these benefits must be set the apparent costs of FDI for the home (source) country. The most important concerns center on the balance-of-payments and employment effects of outward FDI. The home country’s balance of payments may suffer in three ways. First, the balance of payments suffers from the initial capital outflow required to finance the FDI. This effect, however, is usually more than offset by the subsequent inflow of foreign earnings. Second, the current account of the balance of payments suffers if the purpose of the foreign investment is to serve the home market from a low-cost production location. Third, the current account of the balance of payments suffers if the FDI is a substitute for direct exports. Thus, insofar as Toyota’s assembly operations in the United States are intended to substitute for direct exports from Japan, the current account position of Japan will deteriorate.
With regard to employment effects, the most serious concerns arise when FDI is seen as a substitute for domestic production. This was the case with Toyota’s investments in the United States and Europe. One obvious result of such FDI is reduced home-country employment. If the labor market in the home country is already tight, with little unemployment, this concern may not be that great. However, if the home country is suffering from unemployment, concern about the export of jobs may arise. For example, one objection frequently raised by U.S. labor leaders to the free trade pact among the United States, Mexico, and Canada (see the next chapter) is that the United States will lose hundreds of thousands of jobs as U.S. firms invest in Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor and then export back to the United States.43