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Global value chains (GVCs) have been a feature of the international economic architecture for many years, but scholarly interest in the phenomenon is more recent. Today that interest is intense, emanating from an array of academic disciplines as well as from the policy world. This volume, jointly produced by the Fung Global Institute and the World Trade Organization, is an attempt to capture the core features and themes of the exploding literature on GVCs. Our review of the literature demonstrates the eclectic nature of existing work on GVCs, which in turn is a reflection of the complex character of these international production arrangements. Apart from seeking to capture the different strands of the literature, it is our hope that the volume may contribute to a deeper mutual understanding among different disciplinary perspectives, including economic, political economy, business and management, development, social, and public policy analyses.
At its simplest, the GVC story is about the symbiotic relationship between imports and exports, and the key role of foreign investment in internationalized production. The political economy of trade policy is very important in a world of GVCs, since the preponderance of intermediate products in total trade is testimony to the invalidity of the old mercantilist notion that exports are virtuous and imports much less so. The inter-dependency between imports and exports along supply chains leads to the conclusion that if we really want to understand trade and production linkages among nations, we need to look at how much value is added in different production locations instead of merely measuring trade in gross terms. Governments and international agencies are only just beginning to get to grips with the challenges of measuring trade in value-added terms.