In practice, many countries have adopted neither a radical policy nor a free market policy toward FDI, but instead a policy that can best be described as pragmatic nationalism.28 The pragmatic nationalist view is that FDI has both benefits and costs. FDI can benefit a host country by bringing capital, skills, technology, and jobs, but those benefits come at a cost. When a foreign company rather than a domestic company produces products, the profits from that investment go abroad. Many countries are also concerned that a foreign-owned manufacturing plant may import many components from its home country, which has negative implications for the host country’s balance-of-payments position.
Recognizing this, countries adopting a pragmatic stance pursue policies designed to maximize the national benefits and minimize the national costs. According to this view, FDI should be allowed so long as the benefits outweigh the costs. Japan offers an example of pragmatic nationalism. Until the 1980s, Japan’s policy was probably one of the most restrictive among countries adopting a pragmatic nationalist stance. This was due to Japan’s perception that direct entry of foreign (especially U.S.) firms with ample managerial resources into the Japanese markets could hamper the development and growth of their own industry and technology.29 This belief led Japan to block the majority of applications to invest in Japan. However, there were always exceptions to this policy. Firms that had important technology were often permitted to undertake FDI if they insisted that they would neither license their technology to a Japanese firm nor enter into a joint venture with a Japanese enterprise. IBM and Texas Instruments were able to set up wholly owned subsidiaries in Japan by adopting this negotiating position. From the perspective of the Japanese government, the benefits of FDI in such cases—the stimulus that these firms might impart to the Japanese economy—outweighed the perceived costs.
Another aspect of pragmatic nationalism is the tendency to aggressively court FDI believed to be in the national interest by, for example, offering subsidies to foreign MNEs in the form of tax breaks or grants. The countries of the European Union often seem to be competing with each other to attract U.S. and Japanese FDI by offering large tax breaks and subsidies. Britain has been the most successful at attracting Japanese investment in the automobile industry. Nissan, Toyota, and Honda now have major assembly plants in Britain and use the country as their base for serving the rest of Europe—with obvious employment and balance-of-payments benefits for Britain.
Recent years have seen a marked decline in the number of countries that adhere to a radical ideology. Although few countries have adopted a pure free market policy stance, an increasing number of countries are gravitating toward the free market end of the spectrum and have liberalized their foreign investment regime. This includes many countries that less than two decades ago were firmly in the radical camp (e.g., the former communist countries of eastern Europe, many of the socialist countries of Africa, and India) and several countries that until recently could best be described as pragmatic nationalists with regard to FDI (e.g., Japan, South Korea, Italy, Spain, and most Latin American countries). One result has been the surge in the volume of FDI worldwide, which, as we noted earlier, has been growing twice as fast as the growth in world trade. Another result has been an increase in the volume of FDI directed at countries that have recently liberalized their FDI regimes, such as China, India, and Vietnam.
MANAGEMENT FOCUS DP World and the United States
In February 2006, DP World, a ports operator with global reach owned by the government of Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates and a staunch U.S. ally, paid $6.8 billion to acquire P&O, a British firm that runs a global network of marine terminals. With P&O came the management operations of six U.S. ports: Miami, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, New Jersey, and New York. The acquisition had already been approved by U.S. regulators when it suddenly became front-page news. Upon hearing about the deal, several prominent U.S. senators raised concerns about the acquisition. Their objections were twofold. First, they raised questions about the security risks associated with management operations in key U.S. ports being owned by a foreign enterprise that was based in the Middle East. The implication was that terrorists could somehow take advantage of the ownership arrangement to infiltrate U.S. ports. Second, they were concerned that DP World was a state-owned enterprise and argued that foreign governments should not be in a position of owning key “U.S. strategic assets.”
The Bush administration was quick to defend the takeover, stating it posed no threat to national security. Others noted that DP World was a respected global firm with an American chief operating officer and an American-educated chairman; the head of the global ports management operation would also be an American. DP World would not own the U.S. ports in question, just manage them, while security issues would remain in the hands of American customs officials and the U.S. Coast Guard. Dubai was also a member of America’s Container Security Initiative, which allows American customs officials to inspect cargo in foreign ports before it leaves for the United States. Most of the DP World employees at American ports would be U.S. citizens, and any UAE citizen transferred to DP World would be subject to American visa approval.
These arguments fell on deaf ears. With several U.S. senators threatening to pass legislation to prohibit foreign ownership of U.S. port operations, DP World bowed to the inevitable and announced it would sell off the right to manage the six U.S. ports for about $750 million. Looking forward, however, DP World stated it would seek an initial public offering in 2007, and the then-private firm would in all probability continue to look for ways to enter the United States. In the words of the firm’s CEO, “This is the world’s largest economy. How can you just ignore it?”
Sources: “Trouble at the Waterfront,” The Economist, February 25, 2006, p. 48; “Paranoia about Dubai Ports Deals Is Needless,” Financial Times, February 21, 2006, p. 16; and “DP World: We’ll Be Back,” Traffic World, May 29, 2006, p. 1.
As a counterpoint, there is some evidence of a shift to a more hostile approach to foreign direct investment in some nations. Venezuela and Bolivia have become increasingly hostile to foreign direct investment. In 2005 and 2006, the governments of both nations unilaterally rewrote contracts for oil and gas exploration, raising the royalty rate that foreign enterprises had to pay the government for oil and gas extracted in their territories. Following his election victory in 2006, Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalized the nation’s gas fields and stated that he would evict foreign firms unless they agreed to pay about 80 percent of their revenues to the state and relinquish production oversight. In some developed nations, there is increasing evidence of hostile reactions to inward FDI as well. In Europe in 2006, there was a hostile political reaction to the attempted takeover of Europe’s largest steel company, Arcelor, by Mittal Steel, a global company controlled by the Indian entrepreneur Lakshmi Mittal. In mid-2005, China National Offshore Oil Company withdrew a takeover bid for Unocal of the United States after highly negative reaction in Congress about the proposed takeover of a “strategic asset” by a Chinese company. Similarly, as detailed in the accompanying Management Focus, in 2006 a Dubai-owned company withdrew its planned takeover of some operations at six U.S. ports after negative political reactions. So far, these countertrends are nothing more than isolated incidents, but if they become more widespread, the 30-year movement toward lower barriers to cross-border investment could be in jeopardy.
• QUICK STUDY
1. What is the main thesis of the radical view on FDI?
2. What is the main thesis of the free market view on FDI?
3. What is meant by a policy of pragmatic nationalism with regard to FDI?
Benefits and Costs of FDI
LEARNING OBJECTIVE 4
Describe the benefits and costs of FDI to home and host countries.
To a greater or lesser degree, many governments can be considered pragmatic nationalists when it comes to FDI. Accordingly, their policy is shaped by a consideration of the costs and benefits of FDI. Here, we explore the benefits and costs of FDI, first from the perspective of a host (receiving) country and then from the perspective of the home (source) country. In the next section, we look at the policy instruments governments use to manage FDI.
The main benefits of inward FDI for a host country arise from resource-transfer effects, employment effects, balance-of-payments effects, and effects on competition and economic growth.
Foreign direct investment can make a positive contribution to a host economy by supplying capital, technology, and management resources that would otherwise not be available and thus boost that country’s economic growth rate (as described in the opening case, the Indian government has come around to this view and has adopted a more permissive attitude to inward investment).30
With regard to capital, many MNEs, by virtue of their large size and financial strength, have access to financial resources not available to host-country firms. These funds may be available from internal company sources, or, because of their reputation, large MNEs may find it easier to borrow money from capital markets than host-country firms would.
As for technology, you will recall from Chapter 3 that technology can stimulate economic development and industrialization. Technology can take two forms, both of which are valuable. Technology can be incorporated in a production process (e.g., the technology for discovering, extracting, and refining oil), or it can be incorporated in a product (e.g., personal computers). However, many countries lack the research and development resources and skills required to develop their own indigenous product and process technology. This is particularly true in less developed nations. Such countries must rely on advanced industrialized nations for much of the technology required to stimulate economic growth, and FDI can provide it.
Research supports the view that multinational firms often transfer significant technology when they invest in a foreign country.31 For example, a study of FDI in Sweden found that foreign firms increased both the labor and total factor productivity of Swedish firms that they acquired, suggesting that significant technology transfers had occurred (technology typically boosts productivity).32 Also, a study of FDI by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that foreign investors invested significant amounts of capital in R&D in the countries in which they had invested, suggesting that not only were they transferring technology to those countries, but they may also have been upgrading existing technology or creating new technology in those countries.33
Foreign management skills acquired through FDI may also produce important benefits for the host country. Foreign managers trained in the latest management techniques can often help to improve the efficiency of operations in the host country, whether those operations are acquired or greenfield developments. This is one reason the Indian government would like to open up the Indian retail sector to inward investment by foreign firms such as Walmart and Carrefour (see the opening case). Beneficial spin-off effects may also arise when local personnel who are trained to occupy managerial, financial, and technical posts in the subsidiary of a foreign MNE leave the firm and help to establish indigenous firms. Similar benefits may arise if the superior management skills of a foreign MNE stimulate local suppliers, distributors, and competitors to improve their own management skills.
ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE FDI Creates 8,351 Jobs in Ghana
A total of 8,351 jobs are expected to be created out of 117 new projects registered in the fourth quarter of 2011, representing 134.32 percent over 3,564 expected jobs to be created in the corresponding quarter of 2010. According to the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC), 7,629 of the jobs representing 91.35 percent were for Ghanaians, while 722 representing 8.65 percent would go to expatriates. In terms of the sectors, agriculture recorded the highest with 3,277 jobs followed by manufacturing, building and construction and services with 1,357, 930, and 918 jobs respectively. General trading and liaison were also expected to create 844 and 263 jobs respectively.