The Role of Geography in Financial and Economic Integration: A Comparative Analysis of Foreign Direct Investment, Trade and Portfolio Investment Flows


  • The author gratefully acknowledges comments from two anonymous referees. This work was completed as part of the author's PhD dissertation under the supervision of Prof. Philip R. Lane at Trinity College Dublin. The financial support from a Government of Ireland Research Scholarship in Humanities and Social Sciences is gratefully acknowledged.


The objective of this paper is to examine the role of geography in explaining the patterns of financial and economic integration among both developed and developing countries. Using a gravity model, we compare North-North, North-South and South-North FDI, trade and portfolio investment flows to examine how geographical factors influence these bilateral flows. The results indicate that the impact of geography variables on FDI and portfolio are similar to their effect on trade. Geography variables have a statistically significant effect both on FDI and portfolio investment, but FDI is more sensitive to distance. We interpret the negative effect of distance as the existence of information costs in financial flows. Also bilateral FDI, trade and portfolio investment flows react to macroeconomic fundamentals in the same way, however, with different degrees of sensitivity. There are significant differences between North-North and North-South flows. Our results find support for the argument that most FDI among industrial countries are horizontal, whereas most FDI investment in developing countries is vertical. The fact that the significance of geographical variables on financial flows still remained even after controlling for the macroeconomic fundamentals, is in contrast with the standard capital market model. The results can, however, be reconciled if geographical factors can proxy for information costs, which may in turn explain why country portfolios are still home-biased. The significant effect of distance on financial flows may also explain how idiosyn cratic shocks are spread (i.e. contagion) to other countries in the same region. Ultimately, the geographical location of a country may determine its economic and financial integration into the world economy.