Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Coastal Resilience

Committee Chair

Dr. Edward Sayre

Committee Chair School

Coastal Resilience

Committee Member 2

Dr. Joseph St. Marie

Committee Member 2 School

Coastal Resilience

Committee Member 3

Dr. Robert Pauly

Committee Member 3 School

Coastal Resilience

Committee Member 4

Dr. Tom Lansford

Committee Member 4 School

Coastal Resilience


Economic globalization’s key components include international trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), and the digital economy. FDI stimulates export growth, complementing international trade. The global economy is being transformed by digitalization, boosting international trade and GDP through speed, convenience, productivity, and transparency and driving shifts in FDI patterns through resource-efficient products and green technologies.

This dissertation investigates three prominent issues - the FDI inflows to fragile, least-developed countries (LDC), the proliferation of Free Trade Agreements (FTA,) and the digital economy. Using the Generalised Least Squares Random effects (GLS RE) and the Ordinary least squares (OLS) estimations with a sample size of 156 countries, the research found that market size (GNI), human development (HDI), the presence of liquified natural gas (LNG), the presence of precious stones and mineral resources, least developed country (LDC) classification, and trade openness positively determine FDI. At the same time, fragility, measured by the fragile states index and political instability, can reduce FDI. Also, the research into FTAs used the Kruskal-Wallis H test to study the 356 FTAs registered by the WTO at the end of 2022. The research found that FTAs differ based on the number of countries, economic regions, and goods and/or services coverage. The research on the digital economy used a case study methodology to analyze its features and how it has contributed to cross-border trade and investment. The research findings show that internet connections, the ubiquitous mobile phone, and the actions of digital MNEs have created an ecosystem that has changed how we work and play and boosted cross-border trade in goods and services. For example, digital platforms such as Airbnb and social media platforms, including YouTube, have enabled trade in services across borders.

The research findings can contribute to national and multilateral discussions. Countries can implement policies and programs that promote FDI and advance the digital economy. At the same time, at the multilateral level, discussions can acknowledge the disparities and policy challenges of the digital economy and the erosion of free trade caused by FTAs and pursue multilateral solutions that would benefit the global economy.