Saturday, September 21, 2013

Global value chains: Emerging opportunity for developing countries

Opinion Article by: Estefanía Tirado * (
*Economics and International Business Student at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia.

During the last couple of decades the world has experienced a trade phenomenon that consist in the expansion of the production networks between affiliates and partners all over the globe. This process has been led especially by multinational companies that seek for better production costs, better access to the necessary production inputs, diversification of risks, access to certain specialized services and between other interest, looking for tax benefits.

Though sometimes this phenomenon is considered as an opportunity for multinational enterprises to overexploit at a low cost developing countries’ human and physical resources, there is an undeniable great contribution of this process, and it has been the redistribution of value added that had been generated by developed economies for a large number of decades. Despite the fact that an amount of value is allocated within the local economy just by the establishment of an international company in the national territory, it is not enough, and the challenge comes at maximizing the percentage of value kept, taking advantage of the real technological transference and becoming conscious of the exhaustibility of natural resources so new non-extractive economic activities can emerge. By doing this, a tangible opportunity comes for developing countries to join the global production chain and generate value added, that with fair redistributive mechanisms, would have a positive impact on peoples’ welfare.
Taking into account that 60% of global trade consists in the exchange of intermediate goods and services (UNCTAD, 2013), and they are being incorporated everyday, in several parts of the world, into the final service or product, this is a massive opportunity for developing countries to integrate trade benefits into the local economies. There would be not only an increase in the number of people employed, but also, as technological transference occurs, both capital and human resources will have a higher marginal productivity, what would elevate the entire economy’s productivity and will end up in more product per capita.
Although it sounds like an extremely palpable opportunity, there are certain factors that must be taking into consideration before a country can boost development by embracing global value chains. Policies of social contribution by foreign companies, concise redistributive mechanisms and building productive capacity through educational programs that train the labor force for the technological absorption, are key factors for maximizing benefits of this kind of trade. If policymakers have this in their minds, the country's integration in global trade will be more than successful, and most importantly it will have a positive impact on the population’s welfare.


UNCTAD. (2013). World Investment Report 2013. UNCTAD. United Nations.

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