Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer

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2.2.5 Commercial Sales

The OECD has estimated that three quarters of international technology transfer arises from trade. Certainly much private sector technology transfer takes place on a commercial basis, with companies investing in new, upgraded, or expanded facilities purchasing the requisite technology from either domestic or foreign suppliers. Although funds for the purchase of equipment and training in its use can come from many of the sources described earlier, they may also come from retained earnings, commercial loans from banks in the same country, and other non-international sources. Such funding is particularly relevant to small and medium-sized companies that do not have access to international finance. Related private sector flows of an international commercial nature result from payments for intellectual property rights, related specialised services (such as consulting services), and payments arising from strategic partnerships between unaffiliated companies (UNCTAD, 1998; WBCSD, 1998).

It is difficult to assemble a comprehensive picture about international trade and technology transfer. Most government export promotion programmes are not transparent, and it is difficult to gather information about the projects they support (and often make possible). The World Bank assembles data on high technology exports for its World Development Index, but admits that the methodology "rests on a somewhat unrealistic assumption" (World Bank, 1998a). Not surprisingly, the data show that the OECD and "Asian Tiger" countries dominate the export of high technology goods, both in absolute amounts and as a percentage of total exports. Data on importing countries is not provided. UNCTAD (1998) notes, however, that imports of capital goods have consistently represented between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of gross domestic investment in Asian newly industrialising economies, although the percentage relevant to climate change cannot be determined.

Better data exist about payments for foreign royalty and license fees. As reported by the IMF in the Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook, (World Bank, 1998c), developing countries and CEITs made payments in excess of US$7.3 billion and received in turn US$1.2 billion in royalty and license fees in 1997. This category covers patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial processes, and franchises, and for the use, through licensing agreements, of products made from prototypes, such as manuscripts and films. Some of these, but not all, are presumed to be related to the transfer of technology.

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