Global trade transforms from labor cost arbitrage to high-skill knowledge work.

Laura Hermes

2019-01-29 10:33:00 Tue ET

Global trade transforms from labor cost arbitrage to high-skill knowledge work. In fact, multinational manufacturers have been trying to create global supply chains that source goods wherever costs and wages are lowest in exchange for product sales wherever aggregate consumer demand is greatest. This macro trend drives global economic growth, helps alleviate poverty outside the OECD trade bloc, and contributes to the recent rise of China. This trend also helps fuel a political backlash in America.

A recent McKinsey study finds that the share of cross-border tradable goods has fallen sharply from 28% to 22% in the past decade. This reversal of fortune partly reflects the political backlash against trade in America. The same trend also shows a key increase in consumer demand in China and several other Asian economies. These countries now buy more of their own goods and also experience substantive improvements in domestic supply chains. Tradable goods decrease as a share of global economic output, whereas, services soar to account for almost a quarter of productivity gains. International trade transforms from labor-cost arbitrage to high-skill knowledge work in R&D innovation and intellectual property protection. This transformation takes place in specialty industries such as information technology, pharma biotech, e-commerce, and social media.

 


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