The growth in cross-border economic activities takes five principal forms: (1) international trade; (2) foreign direct investment; (3) capital market flows; (4) migration (movement of labor); and (5) diffusion of technology (Stiglitz, 2003).
International trade: An increasing share of spending on goods and services is devoted to imports and an increasing share of what countries produce is sold as exports. Between 1990 and 2001, the percentage of exports and imports in total economic output (GDP) rose from 32.3 per cent to 37.9 per cent in industrialized countries, and from 33.8 per cent to 48.9 per cent in low and middle-income countries (World Briefing Paper, 2001). In the 1980s, about 20 per cent of industrialized countries’ exports went to less industrialized countries; today, this share has risen to about 25 per cent, and it appears likely to exceed 33 per cent by 2010 (Qureshi, 1996).
The importance of International trade lies at the root of a country’s economy. In the constant changing business market, countries are now more interdependent than ever on their partners for exporting, importing, thereby keeping the home country’s economy afloat and healthy. For example, China’s economy is heavily dependent on the exportation of goods to the United States, and the United States customer base who will buy these products.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): According to the United Nations, FDI is defined as “investment made to acquire lasting interest in enterprises operating outside of the economy of the investor”.
Direct investment in constructing production facilities, is distinguished from portfolio investment, which can take the form of short-term capital flows (e.g. loans), or long-term capital flows (e.g. bonds) (Stiglitz, 2003). Since 1980, global flows of foreign direct investment have more than doubled relative to GDP (World Briefing Paper, 2001).
Capital market flows: In many countries, particularly in the developed world, investors have increasingly diversified their portfolios to include foreign financial assets, such as international bonds, stocks or mutual funds, and borrowers have increasingly turned to foreign sources of funds (World Briefing, Paper, 2001). Capital market flows also include remittances from migration, which typically flow from industrialized to less industrialized countries. In essence, the entrepreneur has a number of sources for funding a business.
Migration: Whether it is physicians who emigrate from India and Pakistan to Great Britain or seasonal farm workers emigrating from Mexico to the United States, labor is increasingly mobile. Migration can benefit developing economies when migrants who acquired education and know-how abroad return home to establish new enterprises. However, migration can also hurt the economy through “brain drain”, the loss of skilled workers who are essential for economic growth (Stiglitz, 2003).
Diffusion of technology: Innovations in telecommunications, information technology, and computing have lowered communication costs and facilitated the cross-border flow of ideas, including technical knowledge as well as more fundamental concepts such as democracy and free markets (Stiglitz, 2003). The rapid growth and adoption of information technology, however, is not evenly distributed around the world—this gap between the information technology is often referred to as the “digital divide”.
As a result, for less industrialized countries this means it is more difficult to advance their businesses without the technical system and knowledge in place such as the Internet, data tracking, and technical resources already existing in many industrialized countries.