The simple answer is that making a direct foreign investment allows companies to accomplish several tasks:
Avoiding foreign government pressure for local production.
Circumventing trade barriers, hidden and otherwise.
Making the move from domestic export sales to a locally-based national sales office.
Capability to increase total production capacity.
Opportunities for co-production, joint ventures with local partners, joint marketing arrangements, licensing, etc;
A more complete response might address the issue of global business partnering in very general terms. While it is nice that many business writers like the expression, "think globally, act locally", this often used cliche does not really mean very much to the average business executive in a small and medium sized company. The phrase does have significant connotations for multinational corporations. But for executives in SME's, it is still just another buzzword. The simple explanation for this is the difference in perspective between executives of multinational corporations and small and medium sized companies. Multinational corporations are almost always concerned with worldwide manufacturing capacity and proximity to major markets. Small and medium sized companies tend to be more concerned with selling their products in overseas markets. The advent of the Internet has ushered in a new and very different mindset that tends to focus more on access issues. SME's in particular are now focusing on access to markets, access to expertise and most of all access to technology.
This article was written by Jeffrey P. Graham and R. Barry Spaulding and originally appeared on the now defunct Citibank international business portal.