Official statistics display a significant slowdown in U.S. aggregate productivity growth that begins in 2004. We show how offshore profit shifting by U.S. multinational enterprises affects GDP and, thus, productivity measurement. Under international statistical guidelines, profit shifting causes part of U.S. production generated by multinationals to be excluded from official measures of U.S. production. Profit shifting has increased significantly since the mid-1990s, resulting in lower measures of U.S. aggregate productivity growth. We construct an alternative measure of value added that adjusts for profit shifting. The adjustments raise aggregate productivity growth rates by 0.09 percent annually for 1994-2004, 0.24 percent annually for 2004-2008, and lowers annual aggregate productivity growth rates by 0.09 percent after 2008. Our adjustments mitigate, but do not eliminate, the measured productivity slowdown. The adjustments are especially large in R&D-intensive industries, which most likely produce intangible assets that facilitate profit shifting. The adjustments boost value added in these industries by as much as 8 percent in the mid-2000s.
It is widely believed that an important factor underlying the rapid growth in China is increased foreign direct investment (FDI) and the transfer of foreign technology capital, which is accumulated know-how from investment in research and development (R&D), brands, and organizations that is not specific to a plant. In this paper, we study two channels through which FDI can contribute to upgrading of the stock of technology capital: knowledge spillovers and appropriation. Knowledge spillovers lead to new ideas that do not directly compete or devalue the foreign affiliate's stock. Appropriation, on the other hand, implies a redistribution of property rights over patents and trademarks; the gain to domestic companies comes at a loss to the multinational company (MNC). In this paper we build these sources of technology capital transfer into the framework developed by McGrattan and Prescott (2009, 2010) and introduce an endogenously-chosen intensity margin for operating technology capital in order to capture the trade-offs MNCs face when expanding their markets internationally. We first demonstrate that abstracting from technology capital transfers results in predicted bilateral FDI inflows to China that are grossly at odds with the data. We then use the bilateral inflows to parameterize the model with technology capital transfers and compute the global economic impact of Chinese policies that encouraged greater inflows of FDI and technology capital transfers. Microevidence on automobile patents is used to support our parameter choices and main findings.
Empirical studies quantifying the benefits of increased foreign direct investment (FDI) have been unable to provide conclusive evidence of a positive impact on the host country’s economic performance. I show that the lack of robust evidence is not inconsistent with theory, even if the gains to FDI openness are large. Anticipated welfare gains to increased inward FDI should lead to immediate declines in domestic investment and employment and eventual increases. Furthermore, since part of FDI is intangible investment that is expensed from company profits, gross domestic product (GDP) and gross national product (GNP) should decline during periods of abnormally high FDI investment. Using the model of McGrattan and Prescott (2009) and data from the IMF Balance of Payments to parameterize the time paths of FDI openness for each country in the sample, I do not find an economically significant relationship between the amount of inward FDI a country did over the period 1980—2005 and the growth in real GDP predicted by the model. This finding rests crucially on the fact that most of these countries are still in transition to FDI openness.
Over the period 1982–2006, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates the return on investments of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. multinational companies averaged 9.4 percent per year after taxes while U.S. subsidiaries of foreign multinationals earned on average only 3.2 percent. We estimate the importance of two factors that distort BEA returns: technology capital and plant-specific intangible capital. Technology capital is accumulated know-how from intangible investments in R&D, brands, and organizations that can be used in foreign and domestic locations. Technology capital used abroad generates profits for foreign subsidiaries with no foreign direct investment. Plant-specific intangible capital in foreign subsidiaries is expensed abroad, lowering current profits on foreign direct investment (FDI) and increasing future profits. We develop a multicountry general equilibrium model with an essential role for FDI and apply the same methodology as the BEA to construct economic statistics for the model economy. We estimate that mismeasurement of intangible investments accounts for over 60 percent of the difference in BEA returns.
A framework is developed with what we call technology capital. A country is a measure of locations. Absent policy constraints, a firm owning a unit of technology capital can produce the composite output good using the unit of technology capital at as many locations as it chooses. But it can operate only one operation at a given location, so the number of locations is what constrains the number of units it operates using this unit of technology capital. If it has two units of technology capital, it can operate twice as many operations at every location. In this paper, aggregation is carried out and the aggregate production functions for the countries are derived. Our framework interacts well with the national accounts in the same way as does the neoclassical growth model. It also interacts well with the international accounts. There are constant returns to scale, and therefore no monopoly rents. Yet there are gains to being economically integrated. In the framework, a country’s openness is measured by the effect of its policies on the productivity of foreign operations. Our analysis indicates that there are large gains to this openness.