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Argentina received significant amounts of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows
during the 1990s. At the same time, deep structural reforms were introduced,
forcing domestic firms to rapidly undertake restructuring processes in order to adapt
to the new economic and institutional environment. This paper explores to what
extent FDI helped or hindered those restructuring processes, analyzing whether
positive (or negative) productivity spillovers arose from the increasing presence of
TNCs affiliates. We found that TNCs affiliates had higher productivity levels than
domestic firms and that the latter, on average, received neither positive nor negative
horizontal and vertical (backward) spillovers from the growing presence of foreign
firms in the local economy. However, we also found that domestic firms with high
absorption capabilities reaped positive spillovers from TNCs presence while those
with low absorption capabilities were more likely to receive negative spillovers. The
main policy lesson that arises from these findings is that developing countries which
attract significant FDI inflows should not take for granted that domestic firms will
benefit from TNCs presence, since this will mainly happen when absorption
capabilities are present to be able to receive both horizontal and vertical spillovers.


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