Reading: Foreign Direct Investment

FDI is practiced by companies in order to benefit from cheaper labor costs, tax exemptions, and other privileges in that foreign country.

KEY TAKEAWAYs

  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the flow of investments from one company to production in a foreign nation, with the purpose of lowering labor costs and gaining tax incentives.
  • FDI can help the economic situations of developing countries, as well as facilitate progressive internal policy reforms.
  • A major contributing factor to increasing FDI flow was internal policy reform relating to trade openness and participation in international trade agreements and institutions.


Term

  • Foreign direct investment:  Investment directly into production in a country by a company located in another country, either by buying a company in the target country or by expanding operations of an existing business in that country.


Example

  • Intel is headquartered in the United States, but it has made foreign direct investments in a number of Southeast Asian countries where they produce components of their products in Intel-owned factories.


Foreign direct investment (FDI) is investment into production in a country by a company located in another country, either by buying a company in the target country or by expanding operations of an existing business in that country.

FDI is done for many reasons including to take advantage of cheaper wages in the country, special investment privileges, such as tax exemptions, offered by the country as an incentive to gain tariff-free access to the markets of the country or the region. FDI is in contrast to portfolio investment which is a passive investment in the securities of another country, such as stocks and bonds.

One theory for how to best help developing countries, is to increase their inward flow of FDI. However, identifying the conditions that best attract such investment flow is difficult, since foreign investment varies greatly across countries and over time. Knowing what has influenced these decisions and the resulting trends in outcomes can be helpful for governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and private donors looking to invest in developing countries.

A study from scholars at Duke University and Princeton University published in the American Journal of Political Science, "The Politics of Foreign Direct Investment into Developing Countries: Increasing FDI through International Trade Agreements," examines trends in FDI from 1970 to 2000 in 122 developing countries to assess what the best conditions are for attracting investment. The study found the major contributing factor to increasing FDI flow was internal policy reform relating to trade openness and participation in international trade agreements and institutions. The researchers conclude that, while "democracy can be conducive to international cooperation," the strongest indicator for higher inward flow of FDI for developing countries was the number of trade agreements and institutions to which they were party.

Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo, Brazil, home to a growing middle class and significant direct investments.

GLOSSARY

Developing
Of a country: becoming economically more mature or advanced; becoming industrialized.

Outcomes
The positive and negative consequences that an individual perceives to be a result of his/her actions. Examples include praise, bonuses, and promotions.

Passive
Being subjected to an action without producing a reaction.

Wage
An amount of money paid to a worker for a specified quantity of work, usually expressed on an hourly basis.

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