Asia and Global Production Networks

Asia and Global Production Networks

Implications for Trade, Incomes and Economic Vulnerability

Edited by Benno Ferrarini and David Hummels

This timely book deploys new tools and measures to understand how global production networks change the nature of global economic interdependence, and how that in turn changes our understanding of which policies are appropriate in this new environment. Bringing to bear an array of the latest methods and data to study global value chains, this unique book assesses the evolution of global value chains at the firm level, and how this affects competitiveness in Asia.

Chapter 5: Vertical specialization, tariff shirking and trade

Alyson C. Ma and Ari Van Assche

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian economics, development studies, asian development, development economics, economics and finance, asian economics, international economics


The organization of production has changed in the past few decades. Groundbreaking advances in transportation and communications technology have enabled firms to separate value chain tasks in space and time (Grossman and Rossi-Hansberg, 2008). Recent studies have extensively investigated how this added organizational flexibility allows firms to arbitrage factor cost and institutional differences across countries, leading to the emergence of global value chains (see Van Assche, 2012 for an overview). An additional benefit related to the slicing up of value chains, which has received less attention, is that it allows firms to more easily circumvent trade policy barriers. To avoid a country-specific trade barrier, a company no longer has to relocate its entire value chain to another country, but only a single value chain stage, often final assembly. Fung et al. (2007, pp. 58–59), for example, describe how the trading company Li & Fung scrambled to restructure its value chain in response to an unexpected trade policy shock: [O]n a Friday in early September 2006, the South African government announced that it would be imposing strict quotas on Chinese imports in two weeks. Li & Fung had orders already in production for South African retailers that would be affected by these changes. Managers began to look at contingency plans to move production to factories in different countries and even to move the last stage of existing orders to different end countries to satisfy non-China country-of-origin rules.

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