The future of global value chains and the role of the WTO

Disruptions to global value chains (GVCs) — caused by conflicts, natural disasters, and accidents that close transport routes — and that affect specific regions or sectors, are not unusual. However, in recent years and amid the Covid-19 pandemic, they have become more frequent and severe. High profile, sizeable, and repeated disruptions raise pressing questions: Is the breakdown in many GVCs a temporary glitch, or a permanent phenomenon? Have GVCs become endemically more accident prone, and why? And if so, are firms going to rely less on them? If a sustained withdrawal from GVCs occurs, how will business models be reshaped, and what will be the consequences for growth and inflation? How will the global trading system be affected? In short, policymakers want to know, what is the future of GVCs?

Persistent and severe GVC disruption is a recent phenomenon and hard data needed to analyze its consequences on trade and investment flows are still scarce. Given the available evidence, which is mainly conceptual and anecdotal, and the reigning uncertainty, the note suggests some pointers on how GVCs might evolve and how the WTO could respond.

No: ERSD-2022-11

Authors: Uri Dadush

Manuscript date: April 2022

Key Words:

global value chains, supply chain resilience, reshoring, WTO, globalization

JEL classification numbers:

F13, F17, F52, F62

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This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. The opinions expressed in this paper are those of its author. They are not intended to represent the positions or opinions of the WTO or its members and are without prejudice to members' rights and obligations under the WTO. Any errors are attributable to the author.

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