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Behaviour of Belgian firms in the context of globalisation: lessons from the conference on “International Trade: Threats and Opportunities in a Globalised World”

Emmanuel Dhyne (), L. Dresse, Catherine Fuss () and Ch. Piette
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L. Dresse: National Bank of Belgium, Research Department
Ch. Piette: National Bank of Belgium, Research Department

Economic Review, 2011, issue i, 73-88

Abstract: The article summarises the main lessons of the Bank’s 2010 conference which focused on international trade and foreign direct investment. The research is based on a microeconomic approach to the behaviour of Belgian firms, with reference to developments in the scientific literature on the subject. Firms active internationally have specific characteristics : they are larger and more productive than firms concentrating on the home market. The costs of entering international markets determine their globalisation strategies, be it in terms of timing, the number of markets canvassed, or the choice between exporting and foreign direct investment. Information technologies have a key role in the development of trade in services, especially for analytical work. It is also shown that, in the face of increased competition from Asian products, firms are tending to concentrate their exports on their leading products and to upgrade quality. The international activities of some firms also have positive repercussions on the productivity and globalisation decisions of firms active solely on the home market. Finally, the impact of globalisation on employment is analysed from various angles. In general, trade with low-wage countries tends to increase demand for skilled labour in Belgium and to reduce demand for unskilled labour. The effects of offshoring are comparable. Finally, while multinationals manage their workforce more flexibly than domestic firms, they have nevertheless been the source of substantial job creation, particularly where the subsidiaries of foreign multinationals are concerned.

Keywords: international trade; foreign direct investment; microeconomic analysis; firm heterogeneity; internationalisation; spillovers; multi-product firms; multinational firms; offshoring; employment; skills (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F10 F11 F12 F13 F14 F16 F20 F21 F23 D20 D22 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2011
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