Industrial policy and developmental space: The missing piece in the GVCs debate

December, 2013
Demián Dalle
Verónica Fossati
Federico Lavopa

Global value chains have gained unusual prominence in the research agendas of international organisations and academics devoted to the study of international trade and economy. Even more important, GVCs gained a central place at the negotiating tables of the main international economic fora held during 2013.

This theoretical framework is far from being a novelty, though. In fact, the issue of GVCs has been intensively investigated by specialized researchers since the nineties, when the seminal work of some authors, who could be labelled as neo-Schumpeterian –namely, Gary Gereffi, Raphael Kaplinksy, Timothy Sturgeon, John Humphrey, among others–, were published. What is new, though, is the use of this analytic tool to support an agenda on eminently liberal economic reforms.

Although the initiatives proposed by OECD, WTO and other organizations are of great interest and have proved to be very useful, both the underlying theoretical assumptions of these studies and the conclusions drawn from them are, at least, debatable. The aim of this paper is to provide a critical view on these conclusions and, in particular, on those prescriptions that only seem to search new theoretical and discursive underpinnings to push the trade liberalization agenda forward, disregarding the negative consequences this may have on developing economies. For this purpose, we will seek to bring new elements to the discussion and to propose a future research agenda, mainly from the perspective of developing countries. Our main objective will be to put the concept of GVCs at the service of the studies on economic development, for which it was originally conceived.