Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Global Value Chains (GVCs): the path towards a global economy

Opinion article by: Nathalia Rios Ballesteros* (nriosba@eafit.edu.co
Economics student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia.

Global capitalism has taken over the current economic field. Over the last two decades, terms such as ‘globalization’, ‘internationalization’ and  ‘international free trade’ have emerged and have jointly given rise to a new line of research and a new ‘form of trade’ which has increased greatly in importance nowadays: Global Value Chains (GVCs).  According to Gereffi (2003) a value chain is the range of activities –understood as a set of process that take place transnationally - involved in the design, production and marketing of a product before it is turn into a final good; it is ‘the functional integration and co-ordination of internationally dispersed activities’’ (Gereffi 1999: 41)
Within this broad framework; the growing integration of the global economy posed by the implementation of the GVCs in the various sectors of the economy, has provided the opportunity for substantial economic and income growth, creating and promoting significant opportunities for developing countries and regions as a way to potentially increase the rate and scope of industrial growth and the upgrading of their manufacturing and service activities as well as a way for addressing the poverty and inequality inherent to its internal situation.
However, at the same time, GVCs carry along not only positive but also negative attributes for these countries. As it was stated by the UNCTAD WIR for 2013, even though developing countries are increasingly becoming active participants of GVCs and thus gaining significant improvements in living standards and domestic value added in their exports - higher contribution to countries’ GDP- through it, it still remains a long way towards equity in contrast with developed economies. In this sense, as global trade grows, developed economies appear to increase import dependence for exports, allowing developing countries to add disproportionately to their domestic value; in a nutshell, innovation activities tend to attract higher incomes and continue to be concentrated in the developed countries.
In this context, it seems like the impact of GVCs on inequality is perhaps a complex and wide reality, but unraveling this ‘complexity’ is the key challenge for all developing economies in order to succeed in their path towards integral growth and economic development. What matters then, is how producers – whether firms, regions or countries – become active participants of the global economy and GVCs to narrow this disparity. Hence, there is a need to manage and control the mode of insertion into this ‘plural economy’, to ensure that incomes are not reduced or further transferred to developed countries. Thus, identifying the circumstances which enable developing countries to extend and transform their production capabilities into innovation capabilities along with profit maximization, acquisition of competitive and comparative advantage, reduction of reliance on developed countries to create own-domestic value added and the diversification and expansion of the range of production, which implies exploring other economic sector and fields, rather than sticking into the one that provides the least profit range: the primary sector, can become useful strategies to forge the way to a true global economy.


Gereffi, G., 1999, ‘International trade and industrial upgrading in the apparel commodity chain’, Journal of International Economics, Vol 48, No 1, pp 37-70.

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