FDI and environmental regulation: Pollution haven or a race to the top?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Regulatory Economics, 2012, 41 (2), pp. 216 - 237
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Increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) flows accompanied with globalization have raised the concern of a "race to the bottom" phenomenon in environmental protection. This is because footloose investors of "dirty" industries tend to relocate to "pollution havens" of the developing world. However when pollutant is transboundary (as in the case of greenhouse gases), the source country's incentive to relocate and the recipient country's willingness to host such industries are not straightforward. This article studies the relationship between FDI and environmental regulation using a North-South market share game model in a two-country setting, when pollution is transboundary. Contrary to the pollution haven hypothesis, our model shows that if market sizes of the two countries are small, FDI will raise the emission standard of the host country, resulting in a "race-to-the-top" phenomenon; but if market sizes are large enough, FDI will not change the emission standard of the South (from its laxest form), a finding that is consistent with the "regulatory chill" argument. Equilibrium FDI is contingent on the fixed cost of FDI, as the traditional proximity-concentration tradeoff theory predicts. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
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