Does international openness affect the productivity of local firms?
e P. Damijan
José de Sousa
This paper examines how international openness can change firm productivity in south-eastern Europe (SEE), a crucial question for middle-income countries. Using firm-level data for six transition economies over the 1995-2002 period, we identify whether foreign ownership and propensity to trade with more advanced countries can bring about higher learning effects. We find that: (i) foreign ownership has helped restructure and enhance the productivity of local firms in four out of six countries; (ii) exporting to advanced markets has a larger impact on productivity growth in four countries, especially when the firm's absorptive capacity is taken into account; (iii) in contrast, exporting to the less competitive markets of the former Yugoslavia seems to negatively affect productivity growth in three countries; and (iv) learning effects from importing are similar to those from exporting. Our results suggest that trade liberalization is not uniformly beneficial. Regional composition of trade flows and absorptive capacity of local firms matter. Thus, trade liberalization within the SEE region may not provide a substitute for a general trade liberalization which includes access to the more competitive markets of countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Copyright (c) 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation (c) 2009 The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
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