2019, “The Political Economy of Bilateral Investment Treaties: The Conditional Effects of BITs on FDI Flows and Domestic Politics.” in Research Handbook on Foreign Direct Investment, edited by Markus Krajewski. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
White Papers and Policy Reports
2017. “Leveraging WAIPA to Facilitate Private Sector Linkages.” World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies Research Note April.
“Incentivizing Embedded Investment: Evidence from Patterns of Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America'” (with Xander Slaski) Under Review
Governments frequently offer tax incentives to induce localized investments. This is puzzling because previous research finds tax incentives are rarely decisive factors in firms' locational decision-making. Some argue incentives reflect hyper capital mobility, which strengthens multinational enterprises' bargaining leverage vis-à-vis governments that wish to attract investment. Others emphasize the domestic political institutions and electoral considerations that incentivize politicians to publicly court investors. We argue firms' leverage over governments stems from investment characteristics associated with governments' broader development objectives. We test our argument on deal-level data on investment incentives in Latin America from 2010 to 2017. Our results indicate firms are more likely to receive incentives when they are already embedded in local markets and when they exhibit characteristics associated with low ex post mobility. These results suggest that incentives are not a way to attract mobile capital but are instead a reflection of the development priorities of the host state.
“Explaining Deference: Why and When do Policymakers think FDI needs Tax Incentives?” (with Alexander Slaski.)
Why do governments compete for investment through tax holidays when there is strong evidence that these incentives are rarely consequential to locational decisions (James, 2013; Jensen, 2016)? Previous scholarship has attributed pro-business policies such as investment incentives to: the structural power of business in an era of international capital mobility (Lindblom, 1977; Frieden, 1991; Strange, 1996), fiscal competition generated through political decentralization (Li, 2016; Rodriguez-Pose and Arbix, 2001), or electoral pandering by political leaders (Jensen and Malesky, 2018). However, there is currently little understanding about how government agents form beliefs over how to best attract investment. Building on insights from the bureaucratic politics and behavioral economics literatures, we anticipate investment promotion professionals are more likely to view investment incentives as effective attraction tools when they have limited private sector experience and when they work for in- vestment promotion agencies that are more integrated into the national bureaucracy and that evaluate employee performance based on deals closed. We test these expectations with a conjoint survey experiment of investment pro- motion professionals designed to uncover respondents’ beliefs over the relative importance of different components of the investment environment to firms’ locational decisions.
“Political Investment Cycles: Electoral Competition and Timing of Investment Announcements” (with Jonas Bunte and Paulo Cavallo)
“Market Concentration, Transnational Corporate Networks, and Politically-Connected Firms” (with William K. Winecoff.)
“Investment Incentives, Industrial Policy, and Upgrading: Evidence from FDI Projects in Latin America”
“The Social Identities of Investment Promotion Agencies” (with Geoffrey Gertz)
In recent decades, nearly all countries have established an investment promotion agency (IPA) to attract and retain foreign investment. These IPAs have an inherent dual nature, functioning both as the face of government to foreign investors and as an advocate for foreign firms within the government bureaucracy. While this dual nature means IPAs are well positioned to orchestrate the attraction of productive investment, it also creates significant tensions, as the interests of governments and foreign investors are not always aligned. IPAs are thus torn between advocating for the removal of any obstacles to foreign investment and the need to regulate businesses to advance the government’s agenda, such as boosting domestic employment and technology transfer. In this paper, we explore variation in how IPAs manage these tensions. We argue that countries’ broader economic strategies as well as the governance structure of IPAs generate distinct rationales for IPA authorities’ beliefs and behavior. We introduce a new typology for analyzing IPAs, which helps to explain how different IPAs manage these tensions and how these choices influence their activities. Based on variation in an IPA’s governance structure and economic ideology, we identify four different ideal types of IPAs: the dealmaker, the gatekeeper, the advocate, and the functionary. We argue that these distinct types of IPAs approach their mandates of investment attraction in different ways. These variations in promotional strategies and tactics, in turn, ultimately condition IPAs’ potential and limits in contributing to sustainable, inclusive development. This research enriches our understanding of investment promotion—an under-studied subject in the International Political Economy literature—and contributes to ongoing debates on how states manage economic globalization.
“Privatization and Public Opinion of FDI in Latin America.” (with Alissandra T. Stoyan)
Policies over privatization have the potential to powerfully influence citizens’ opinions over foreign investment. Rather than viewing policies toward FDI as distinct from other components of neoliberal reform, individuals form opinions of foreign investment in part through initial experiences with multinational firms. When reform includes large-scale privatization of infrastructure, citizens are more likely to discount benefits of foreign investment. Using data from the World Bank and Latinobarómetro in 17 Latin American countries, we test the effect of country-level experiences with privatization on opinion of FDI, controlling for individual-level factors, as well as privatization’s mediating effect on the relationship between education and support for FDI. Citizens are less likely to hold intensely favorable opinions and more likely to hold intensely negative opinions of foreign investment in countries with high levels of infrastructure privatization. While highly educated people are more likely to view FDI favorably, water and energy privations attenuate this relationship.
“Local Firms and Foreign Investors: How Domestic Industry Influences Investment Treaty Formation.”
The past three decades have witnessed a spectacular evolution in polices toward foreign direct investment (FDI) as most governments have substantially liberalized domestic rules regarding rights of establishment and have promulgated a dense network of international treaties with foreign investor protections. Whose interests do these policy innovations reflect? Workhorse political economy models of preference formation suggest liberalization of investment rules, especially in developing countries, is driven by popular pressure made more powerful through democratization. However, investment reforms have often been pursued in non-democratic contexts and in close consultation with domestic industry. Why would indigenous firms support liberalization, especially in capital-poor countries where standard models suggest industry has the most to lose from openness? I argue local economic elites’ policy preferences toward FDI policy are conditioned on the financing environment. Local firms support restrictive FDI policies when financial repression and loose global credit markets provide powerful industrial elites with access to ample credit on subsidized terms. When the domestic banking sector undergoes substantial reforms, local economic elites no longer have access to cheap credit through political connections. The need to obtain finance outweighs firms’ preferences to exclude foreign firms. Under such conditions, economic elites will pressure governments to pursue liberal FDI policy environments. I test this theory using data on bilateral investment treaty (BIT) formation. While European BITs have no right of establishment provision, US BITs do. I exploit this variation in BIT provisions to show that features of the domestic banking sector and global financing conditions influence signage of US BITs, but not of European BITs. These results suggest governments’ willingness to liberalize rights of establishment is a function of local firms financing constraints.
“Investment Incentives as Socialized Risk.”
The growth of multinational firms and a growing competition to attract them has led to incentive wars among countries and subnational units trying to benefit from large investment deals. Recent research has considered the microfoundations of local political actors’ incentives to offer such deals to firms. Critics worry that these incentive packages are distortionary at best and little more than corporate handouts that erode labor’s share of income and reduce the bargaining power of labor more generally. Boosters argue tax incentives are good fiscal bets as their cost is foregone tax receipts rather than real outlays, and that initial investments increase aggregate demand and generate increased government revenue through income taxes. I consider the ways in which tax incentives shift investment risk from firms to taxpayers, and the ways in which such schemes may have multiplier effects as incentive instability and sequential outbidding can lead to swift changes in local industrial base and employment prospects. These shifts place extra burdens on local governments to smooth consumption and provide social assistance precisely at times of quickly eroding tax bases. Thus, investment incentive competition can shift multiple classes of risk (investment, location, systemic, employment) to local governments who must manage local budget priorities in the context of higher revenue risk. Using rich data on incentives at the local level in the United States, I test whether local government debt burdens and other measures of economic fragilities are systematically related to the size of investment incentive programs.