Abstract This paper examines the hypothesis that economic internationalisation is acting to reduce the importance of national technology ‘gaps’ as determinants of trade patterns and performance. The cross-country analysis uses two approaches to assess the dynamic nature of the relationship between national investment in technological capability (proxied by both R&D activity and human capital) and technology-intensive (TI) trade performance. Natural resource endowment and the changing impact of physical capital formation are also investigated. The study includes approximately 48 nations and is based on data from the mid-1970s to 1990. The empirical evidence from one approach undertaken does not support the globalisation hypothesis as national investment in technology and human capital is shown to have maintained its link to international trade success in TI manufactures over the study period. However, the findings of the alternative approach are ambiguous. A positive association between technology investment catch-up and ongoing TI manufacturing trade performance is evident for the newly industrialised economies (NICs), but the results suggest that an inverse relationship may apply for many of the ‘mature’ Western economies.