The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper develops a simple real options model that demonstrates the role of country-specific risk and sunk costs in determining a multinational’s choice between exports and foreign investment. The hypotheses from the model are tested for the distribution of capital expenditures by U.S.-owned foreign affiliates in 29 developing countries during 1984–95. Political and economic risk ratings are identified as deterrents to foreign capital formation; scale economies, unit wage differentials, trade openness, and agglomeration effects are found to be stimulating. These findings provide an additional rationale for a multilateral investment agreement that could function as an agency of restraint.