“Globalization is experiencing a reconfiguration of its geographical bases, but it is not retreating”

Tribune. We have moved from the phase of hyper-globalization of the years 1990-2000, within an institutional framework of unbridled trade liberalization, to a recomposition of globalization on regional bases which is accompanied by a resurgence of trade protectionism. But are we witnessing, for all that, the effects of Covid-19 helping, a complete de-globalization of economies? Nothing is less sure.

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What is commonly referred to as the second globalization, which began in the 1950s to differentiate from the first (1860-1910), actually goes through several distinct phases. The first is that of the expansion of the so-called industrialized countries of the center, which tried to liberalize world trade by the tariff disarmament authorized by the GATT agreements (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), especially for products. manufactured.

The second phase sees, in the period of the years 1990-2000, a globalization source of prosperity. The capitalist world is expanding in three fundamental directions: that of central and eastern Europe, whose planned and closed economies collapsed to enter the market economy, giving political meaning to the completion of the European single market ; the Marrakesh agreements of 1994 at the multilateral level enshrined the creation of the World Trade Organization; The entry of China, India and other so-called emerging countries amplifies the dynamics of this globalization.

New division of labor

Thus, industrial groups set up a dual Taylorist and cognitive logic of the international division of labor. Globally, this marks the stage of hyper-globalization of value chains. Firms fragment their production processes around the world driven by two factors: exploiting differences in comparative production costs between countries on the one hand, and using low transaction costs on the other. Depending on the sectors and the strategic choices of companies, offshoring is based on two different logics of division of labor. To coordinate the separate production processes, transaction costs (transport, etc.) must be compared with the gains from international fragmentation (automobiles, furniture, machine tools, etc.), geographical dispersion will be more or less limited.

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In sectors in which the race for technological innovation constitutes the dominant mode of competition (pharmaceutical, IT, electronics, aerospace industries, etc.), firms have combined the two logics: the heart of production processes is no longer divided into operations defined, but in blocks of homogeneous knowledge (research and development, marketing, etc.) to promote product innovations at the heart of competition between global groups. But for manufacturing production in the middle of the value chain, the manufacturing of intermediate goods and assembly activities are outsourced to low-wage countries. Hence the dependence, seen in broad daylight during this health crisis, from the pharmaceutical industry to China and India for the production of active ingredients.

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