Global Trade Today is Global Value Chains

David Henig
Content Type
Policy Brief
European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE)
In the last 25 years global value chains have come to dominate global trade in a way surprisingly little discussed or understood. To meet the policy challenges of today and the future we need to understand the key characteristics of this new global trade and how they came about. The OECD estimate around 70% of total trade takes place in global value chains. Using their definition as where “the different stages of the production process are located across different countries”, and considering both goods and services inputs, this may be an understatement. The example most commonly used is the automotive sector, with 30,000 parts and associated services like satellite navigation going into one car. However there are many others. Modern primary commodity production is optimised by technology developed in other countries, diverse services and goods are frequently combined to create new product offerings, and most international business to consumer transactions are facilitated by leading global platforms. Positively this new globalization has provided consumers with an unprecedented choice of products at affordable prices. More challengingly it has seen governments struggle with the question of how they can best influence modern trade, amid signs of a backlash and simple demands for ‘more domestic manufacturing’. The popular global narrative that feeds such demands is one that has a traditional view of trade as a set of simple primary or manufactured goods transactions. Policymakers must move on from this narrative, making their choices, and explaining them clearly, on the basis of global value chains.
International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Trade, Global Value Chains
Political Geography
Global Focus