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Global supply chains: Why they emerged, why they matter, and where they are going

  • Baldwin, Richard

Global supply chains (GSCs) are transforming the world. This paper explores why they emerged, why they are significant and future directions they are likely to take along with some implications for policy. After putting global supply chains into an historical perspective, the paper presents an economic framework for understanding the functional and geographical unbundling of production. The fundamental trade off in supply chain fractionalisation is between specialisation gains and coordination costs. The key trade-off in supply chain dispersion is between dispersion and agglomeration forces. Supply-chain trade should be not viewed as standard trade in parts and components rather than final goods. Production sharing has linked cross-border flows of goods, investment, services, know-how and people in novel ways. The paper suggest that future of global supply chains will be influenced by: 1) improvements in coordination technology that lowers the cost of functional and geographical unbundling, 2) improvements in computer integrated manufacturing that lowers the benefits of specialisation and shifts stages toward greater skill-, capital, and technology-intensity, 3) narrowing of wage gaps that reduces the benefit of North-South offshoring to nations like China, and 4) the price of oil that raises the cost of unbundling.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9103.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9103
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  1. Puga, Diego & Venables, Anthony J., 1996. "The Spread of Industry: Spatial Agglomeration in Economic Development," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 440-464, December.
  2. Amador, João & Cabral, Sónia, 2009. "Vertical specialization across the world: A relative measure," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 267-280, December.
  3. Krugman, Paul, 1991. "Increasing Returns and Economic Geography," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 483-99, June.
  4. Friederike Niepmann & Gabriel J. Felbermayr, 2010. "Globalisation and the Spatial Concentration of Production," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(5), pages 680-709, 05.
  5. Horn, Henrik & Mavroidis, Petros C & Sapir, André, 2009. "Beyond the WTO? An Anatomy of EU and US Preferential Trade Agreements," CEPR Discussion Papers 7317, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Baldwin, Richard, 2012. "Trade and industrialisation after globalisation’s 2nd unbundling: How building and joining a supply chain are different and why it matters," CEPR Discussion Papers 8768, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Marius Brülhart, 2001. "Evolving geographical concentration of European manufacturing industries," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer, vol. 137(2), pages 215-243, June.
  8. Spitz, Alexandra, 2004. "Are Skill Requirements in the Workplace Rising? Stylized Facts and Evidence on Skill-Biased Technological Change," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-33, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  9. Robert C. Johnson & Guillermo Noguera, 2012. "Fragmentation and Trade in Value Added over Four Decades," NBER Working Papers 18186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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