by Wladimir Andreff ; Giovanni Balcet
Start page: 3 - End page: 26
Keywords: emerging countries' multinationals; outward foreign direct investment; China; India; HOS theorem; labour costs; wage differentials; skilled and unskilled labour; technological gap; government policies
Jel code: F21; F23; O53
The paper analyses the new trend of outward foreign direct investment (FDI) by multinational companies from emerging countries, in particular the BRICs, in developed countries to question the applicability of the traditional HOS theoretical framework to this trend. A literature review shows that labour costs do not play any significant role in the first attempts to provide an analytical explanation of this new trend. A HOS equation, amended in order to encompass FDI, is elaborated in order to explain outward FDI from developed to developing and emerging countries based on differences in labour endowment and therefore in wage rates. Step by step, the equation introduces the technological gap, institutions and government policies. Then it is shown that such equation when reversed to explain outward FDI from emerging to developed countries is at odds with the traditional HOS framework. Turning the HOS theory upside down does not help to explain reverse FDI outflows from emerging to developed countries. An alternative approach is called for, in which a labour cost advantage (a lower wage rate than abroad) is a home market advantage for emerging countries to invest abroad. A final section provides some empirical examples that labour matters and a lower home wage rate is a decisive comparative advantage for Indian and Chinese multinationals investing in developed countries. Additional evidence shows that the technological gap and the home country's institutions and government policy matter as well.