The Baltic Region

2021 Vol. 13 №3

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Global value chains in the age of uncertainty: advantages, vulnerabilities, and ways for enhancing resilience



In this paper, we seek to explain the fundamental vulnerability of global value chains (GVCs) to sudden shocks, as revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, and outline ways for enhancing their adaptability to the increased uncertainty at both conceptual and policy levels. We consider the concept and a typical multi-structural model of GVCs, highlighting the network complexity of the system of distributed production and trade in value added. Not only does this system bring competitive advantages to GVC partner countries, but also it entails risks of cascading production disruptions. We examine these risks by analysing the ripple effect of supply disruptions in GVCs when a sudden local shock can propagate globally through inter-firm supplier links, generating growing output losses across industries and economies. From this perspective, we describe the pandemic-induced breakdown in the global just-in-time supply system in spring 2020 and its role in the escalating global recession. In analysing the mechanisms of post-pandemic GVC adaptation to uncertainty, we look at the concept of economic resilience and properties of resilient systems (robustness, flexibility, redundancy, and dynamic sustainability). We scrutinise the supply chain resilience model used by leading MNEs (GVC organisers) in their disruption risk management at pre-disruption and post-disruption stages. We classify resilience strategies devised by MNEs after 2020 into three interrelated categories: namely, multi-structural GVC optimisation (diversification and relocation of suppliers), operational optimisation (building redundancy and production flexibility), and GVC digitalisation. We conclude by outlining windows of opportunity to improve international specialisation and growth patterns, which may open in the 2020s for developing economies, including Russia, due to the ongoing restructuring of GVCs and their global supplier networks.


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