Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2007

Abstract

The rising economic importance of multinational firms has been accompanied by significant changes in their structure and functioning. Multinational firms, historically characterized as webs of autonomous subsidiaries spread across countries, now represent globally integrated production systems serving worldwide customers. These changes are manifest in the rising significance of intrafirm trade and financial flows for these firms. While there is extensive analysis of aggregate patterns in intrafirm flows of goods and capital, few firm-based studies examine the workings of the internal markets of multinational firms, largely because of the difficulty in accessing the necessary data. A number of our recent projects investigated the internal markets of U.S. multinational firms. Our research demonstrates that internal market operations represent a critical aspect of firm responses to costly external finance, capital controls, and currency fluctuations. Our research also shows that the changing nature of internal markets has influenced how firms operate and finance themselves around the world. An important insight emerging from this research is that firms use internal markets opportunistically, particularly in response to distortions in local markets. This Research Spotlight summarizes this body of work.


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