Globalisation has become a catchword for the international economy at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The increasing importance of export-oriented industrialisation has made integration into the global economy virtually synonymous with development for a number of nations.
However, there is an acute awareness that the gains from globalisation are very unevenly distributed within as well as between societies. A growing body of work analyses globalisation processes from the perspective of ‘value chains’; that is that international trade in goods and services should not be seen solely, or even mainly, as a multitude of arm’s-length market-based transactions but rather as systems of governance – involving multinational enterprises – that link firms together in a variety of sourcing and contracting arrangements.
Understanding how these value chains operate is very important for developing country firms and policymakers because the way chains are structured has implications for newcomers trying to participate in the chain and to gain access to necessary skills, competences and supporting services.
Most of the papers in this IDS Bulletin build on the results of a workshop in Bellagio, Italy in September 2000, where all these issues were discussed.