Competitive Adjustment and Advancement in Global Commodity Chains: I. Firm Strategies and Trajectories in the East Asian Apparel Industry

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Globalisation discourses increasingly depart from a network-centred view of the world, and focus on the possibilities of leveraging economic globalisation – through incorporation in international production networks and global commodity chains (GCCs)– as a strategy for less developed countries (LDCs) to industrialise and advance their position in the world economy. This article goes beyond the question of incorporation and addresses the issue of sustaining positions, upgrading to more rewarding roles, and advancing to less dependent positions within production networks and GCCs. Drawing on experiences in the East Asian apparel industry, we present a framework for analysing such processes at both the firm and industry levels. We demonstrate that the East Asian experience provides a rather positive picture, despite a decline in the region's share of world trade. The present paper is a preliminary contribution; further research, using the framework presented, would enhance insights into competitive adjustment and advancement in GCCs, specifically, the forces underlying success or failure.