Open Economies Review

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 495–514 | Cite as

Importers, Exporters and Multinationals: Exploring the Hierarchy of International Linkages

  • Joakim Gullstrand
  • Karin Olofsdotter
  • Susanna Thede
Research Article


The purpose of this paper is to empirically explore two dimensions of the firm hierarchy of international market-specific linkages, using data on Swedish manufacturing firms from 1997 to 2007. First, we investigate the productivity ordering with respect to three international linkages; importing, exporting and investing abroad. Second, we explore whether differences in the productivity ordering across industries correlates with industry and country characteristics. Our findings support a general productivity hierarchy from importing to exporting and from exporting to investing abroad, as well as from a low to a high number of linkages (measuring the complexity of firms’ international linkages). However, an industry-by-industry examination shows that the hierarchical structure is only generally upheld when it comes to the number of international linkages, while the ordering of import, export and investment linkages does not exhibit the same regularity across industries. Extending the analysis, we find that the lack of a hierarchical structure is more likely in industries focusing on larger and less distant markets.


Manufacturing firms Productivity ordering Market linkages Linkage complexity 

JEL Classification

F14 F21 F23 



Financial support from the Jan. Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation (grant nr. P2009-0118:1) is gratefully acknowledged. The authors want to thank Zouheir El-Sahli, Ari Kokko, Fredrik Sjöholm and Martin Streiborny as well as seminar participants at Lund Seminar Series in International Economics and conference participants at SNEE in Mölle, 2013, and DIEW in Århus, 2015, for valuable comments. In addition, we thank two anonymous referees for helpful suggestions and Hans Carlsson for his advice.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joakim Gullstrand
    • 1
  • Karin Olofsdotter
    • 1
  • Susanna Thede
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.Institute for European Studies, University of MaltaMsidaMalta

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