NAFTA and the apparel commodity chain: Corporate strategies, interfirm networks, and industrial upgrading

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2009-12-01

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Abstract

The apparel industry is one of the oldest and largest export industries in the world, with global trade and production networks that connect firms and workers in countries at all levels of economic development. This chapter examines the impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as one of the most recent and significant developments to affect patterns of international trade and production in the apparel and textile industries. Tr ade policies are changing the institutional environment in which firms in this industry operate, and companies are responding to these changes with new strategies designed to increase their profitability and strengthen their control over the apparel commodity chain. Our hypothesis is that lead firms are establishing qualitatively different kinds of regional production networks in North America from those that existed prior to NAFTA, and that these networks have important consequences for industrial upgrading in the Mexican textile and apparel industries. Post-NAFTA crossborder production arrangements include full-package networks that link lead firms in the United States with apparel and textile manufacturers, contractors, and suppliers in Mexico. Full-package production is increasing the local value added provided by the apparel commodity chain in Mexico and creating new opportunities for Mexican firms and workers. The chapter is divided into four main sections. The first section uses trade and production data to analyze shifts in global apparel flows, highlighting the emergence and consolidation of a regional trade bloc in North America. The second section discusses the process of industrial upgrading in the apparel industry and introduces a distinction between assembly and full-package production networks. The third section includes case studies based on published industry sources and strategic interviews with several lead companies whose strategies are largely responsible for the shifting trade patterns and NAFTA-inspired cross-border production networks discussed in the previous section. The fourth section considers the implications of these changes for employment in the North American apparel industry. © 2009 by Temple University Press. All rights reserved.

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Scholars@Duke

Gereffi

Gary Gereffi

Professor Emeritus of Sociology

Gary Gereffi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Value Chains Center at Duke University (https://gvcc.duke.edu/).  He has published over a dozen books and numerous articles on globalization, industrial upgrading, and social and economic development, and he is one of the originators of the global value chains framework.  His most recent books are:  Handbook on Global Value Chains (co-edited by Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert), Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. 2019); and Global Value Chains and Development: Redefining the Contours of 21st Century Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  Current projects include:  (1) the impact of U.S. protectionism on jobs and regional trade agreements; (2) evaluating how the digital economy and Industry 4.0 are likely to affect international business strategies and industrial upgrading; and (3) shifting regional interdependencies in East Asia and North America, with a focus on China, South Korea and Mexico vis-à-vis the United States.

Gereffi

Gary Gereffi

Professor Emeritus of Sociology

Gary Gereffi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Global Value Chains Center at Duke University (https://gvcc.duke.edu/).  He has published over a dozen books and numerous articles on globalization, industrial upgrading, and social and economic development, and he is one of the originators of the global value chains framework.  His most recent books are:  Handbook on Global Value Chains (co-edited by Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert), Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. 2019); and Global Value Chains and Development: Redefining the Contours of 21st Century Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  Current projects include:  (1) the impact of U.S. protectionism on jobs and regional trade agreements; (2) evaluating how the digital economy and Industry 4.0 are likely to affect international business strategies and industrial upgrading; and (3) shifting regional interdependencies in East Asia and North America, with a focus on China, South Korea and Mexico vis-à-vis the United States.


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