Foreign direct investment and technology spillovers in Mexico: 20 years of NAFTA

Enrique Armas, José Carlos Rodríguez


This article analyses the development of technology capabilities in the manufacturing sector of Mexico during the last two decades. It has been argued that the inclusion of Mexico in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 would be enough to catch up with Canada and the United States. In this regard, trade liberalisation and foreign direct investment (FDI) would have been two strategic tools to close the technology gap between Mexico and its commercial partners in North America. Yet, after twenty years of NAFTA, it has been demonstrated that many indigenous firms in Mexico must develop an absorptive capacity to benefit from FDI. This paper suggests that the debate on the Asian miracle in the 1990s could be an adequate theoretical framework to discuss technology development and industrialisation in the case of emerging economies. In fact, this debate reveals two alternative approaches to explain the development of technology capabilities: (i) the accumulation view of growth, and (ii) the assimilation view of growth. Therefore, the Asian miracle exemplifies how entrepreneurship, learning and a supporting innovation policy could be an adequate strategy to benefit from FDI and technology spillovers in the case of emerging economies.


Foreign direct investment; technology transfer; technology spillovers; trade liberalisation; North America Free Trade Agreement; Mexico

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