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A taxonomy of Italian firms’ internationalization models

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Istat proposes a taxonomy of the internationalization models that is composed of six mutually exclusive classes, representing different modes of operating on foreign markets. Ideally moving from more “elementary” forms to more and more complex structures, the first four classes relate to the trade internationalization, while the other two refer to productive internationalization:

  • Only importers: firms that only carry out import but not export activities;
  • Only exporters: firms that do not import but export to EU countries and/or to less than five non-EU geographical areas;
  • Two-way traders: firms involved in both import and export activities;
  • Global: firms exporting to no less than 5 non-EU areas;
  • MNE_FOR: firms operating in Italy which belong to foreign-controlled groups.
  • MNE_IT: firms operating in Italy which belong to Italian control groups which have foreign affiliates.

Each firms is assigned to only one class; if an enterprise has characteristics relating to more than one class, it is included in the highest class (i.e. the one corresponding to the most advanced form of internationalization). This implies that, for example, the “Global” class may also include firms that import and/or export to the EU countries (as well as to at least five non-EU areas). Analogously, in the “MNE_FOR” and “MNE_IT” classes there may be firms that export and/or import, and belong to multinational groups (with foreign and Italian control respectively).

This taxonomy provided the basis for analyses on Italian firms’ internationalization published in several Istat publications, such as:

  1. the annual Report on the competitiveness of business sectors, where the taxonomy was first introduced in 2013 edition and used again in 2017 edition);
  2. the 2013 edition (ch. 2) of the Annual Report;
  3. the 2016 Istat-Cnel joint Report on “Productivity, structure and performance of exporting firms; labour market and supplementary bargaining”.

In all these circumstances, the new taxonomy proved to be a useful tool in analyzing the performance of the Italian business system in a period when the ability to operate on international markets was a crucial factor even for firms’ survival itself. Finally, the quality and robustness of the taxonomy obtained have fostered further analyses, whose evidences have been published also in both institutional and academic works.

For information:

Stefano Costa
ph. 06 4673.7316

Claudio Vicarelli
ph. 06 4673.7313

Francesca Luchetti
ph. 06 4673.7289

Date of Issue: 03 March 2017


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