The Location of Overseas Production and Production for Export by U.S. Multinational Firms
39 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2004 Last revised: 18 May 2008
Date Written: June 1980
The location of overseas manufacturing production by U.S. firms seems to have been strongly influenced by common factors that operate in all industries: notably proximity to the United States and to other markets. Within industries, the choices made by parent firms among locations appear to show a tendency of "opposites attract," with low-wage and low-capital-intensity parents choosing high-wage, high-capital intensity countries and high-wage, high-capital-intensity parents making the opposite choice. Production for export seems to have been most strongly attracted by large internal markets in host countries. Economies of scale in production presumably made large markets also economical as export bases. Another factor was high trade propensities of host countries, which we interpret as representing access to imported materials at low world prices or better transport, finance, and other trade facilities. Labor cost seems to have been a weak influence on location choices. U.S. firms tended to export from high-wage countries but the high productivity in such countries more than offset the high wages. However, labor cost, to the extent we could measure it, was not in general a major influence on the location of export production.
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