THE ECLECTIC PARADIGM
The eclectic paradigm has been championed by the British economist John Dunning.20 Dunning argues that in addition to the various factors discussed earlier, location-specific advantages are also of considerable importance in explaining both the rationale for and the direction of foreign direct investment. By location-specific advantages, Dunning means the advantages that arise from utilizing resource endowments or assets that are tied to a particular foreign location and that a firm finds valuable to combine with its own unique assets (such as the firm’s technological, marketing, or management capabilities). Dunning accepts the argument of internalization theory that it is difficult for a firm to license its own unique capabilities and know-how. Therefore, he argues that combining location-specific assets or resource endowments with the firm’s own unique capabilities often requires foreign direct investment. That is, it requires the firm to establish production facilities where those foreign assets or resource endowments are located.
Advantages that arise from using resource endowments or assets that are tied to a particular foreign location and that a firm finds valuable to combine with its own unique assets (such as the firm’s technological, marketing, or management know-how).
An obvious example of Dunning’s arguments are natural resources, such as oil and other minerals, which are by their character specific to certain locations. Dunning suggests that to exploit such foreign resources, a firm must undertake FDI. Clearly, this explains the FDI undertaken by many of the world’s oil companies, which have to invest where oil is located in order to combine their technological and managerial capabilities with this valuable location-specific resource. Another obvious example is valuable human resources, such as low-cost, highly skilled labor. The cost and skill of labor varies from country to country. Because labor is not internationally mobile, according to Dunning it makes sense for a firm to locate production facilities in those countries where the cost and skills of local labor are most suited to its particular production processes.
However, Dunning’s theory has implications that go beyond basic resources such as minerals and labor. Consider Silicon Valley, which is the world center for the computer and semiconductor industry. Many of the world’s major computer and semiconductor companies—such as Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Google, and Intel—are located close to each other in the Silicon Valley region of California. As a result, much of the cutting-edge research and product development in computers and semiconductors occurs there. According to Dunning’s arguments, knowledge being generated in Silicon Valley with regard to the design and manufacture of computers and semiconductors is available nowhere else in the world. To be sure, that knowledge is commercialized as it diffuses throughout the world, but the leading edge of knowledge generation in the computer and semiconductor industries is to be found in Silicon Valley. In Dunning’s language, this means that Silicon Valley has a location-specific advantage in the generation of knowledge related to the computer and semiconductor industries. In part, this advantage comes from the sheer concentration of intellectual talent in this area, and in part it arises from a network of informal contacts that allows firms to benefit from each others’ knowledge generation. Economists refer to such knowledge “spillovers” as externalities, and there is a well-established theory suggesting that firms can benefit from such externalities by locating close to their source.21
Silicon Valley has long been known as the epicenter of the computer and semiconductor industry.
Insofar as this is the case, it makes sense for foreign computer and semiconductor firms to invest in research and, perhaps, production facilities so they too can learn about and utilize valuable new knowledge before those based elsewhere, thereby giving them a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.22 Evidence suggests that European, Japanese, South Korean, and Taiwanese computer and semiconductor firms are investing in the Silicon Valley region, precisely because they wish to benefit from the externalities that arise there.23 Others have argued that direct investment by foreign firms in the U.S. biotechnology industry has been motivated by desires to gain access to the unique location-specific technological knowledge of U.S. biotechnology firms.24 Dunning’s theory, therefore, seems to be a useful addition to those outlined previously, because it helps explain how location factors affect the direction of FDI.25
• QUICK STUDY
1. Why do firms often prefer FDI to exporting and licensing as a strategy for expanding into foreign markets?
2. What theories explain the timing and direction of FDI by firms in the same industries?
3. What is the role of location-specific advantages in explaining FDI?
Political Ideology and Foreign Direct Investment
LEARNING OBJECTIVE 3
Understand how political ideology shapes a government’s attitudes toward FDI.
Historically, political ideology toward FDI within a nation has ranged from a dogmatic radical stance that is hostile to all inward FDI at one extreme to an adherence to the noninterventionist principle of free market economics at the other. Between these two extremes is an approach that might be called pragmatic nationalism.