Despite their common roots, international economics (IE) and international business (IB) have developed into two distinct fields of study. Economists have directed their efforts at formalizing the workings of international trade and investment at the macroeconomic level; business scholars have relied more on data-driven conceptual narratives than mathematical tools. But the recent focus of IE literature on firm heterogeneity suggests that IE would benefit from IB analyses of the behavior and organization of the internationalizing firm.
The multinational firm and its main vehicle, foreign direct investment, are key forces in economic globalization. Their importance to the world economy can be seen in the fact that since 1990 foreign direct investment has grown more rapidly than the world GDP and world trade. Despite this, the causes and consequences of multinational firm activity are little understood and until recently relatively unexamined in the theoretical literature.