La Lettre du GERPISA no 118 (decembre 1997)

Programme News

Meeting of "Emerging Countries" group coordinators.

Paris November 14 and 15, 1997.

Jorge Carrillo, Elsie Charron, John Humphrey, Yveline Lecler, Yannick Lung and Mario Salerno all met in Paris on November 14 and 15, 1997 to coordinate research on emerging countries which will be carried out by network members. This discussion allowed us to pursue debates resulting from the Fifth International Colloquium (see “Lettre du GERPISA” n° 115), and to prepare for the upcoming one.

An initial set of issues raises the general question for emerging countries : do they represent the "promised land" for the world automobile industry ? Recent events (financial crises in Southeast Asia) remind us that a great deal of uncertainty persists with regards to growth perspectives in these markets. It is important to underline general conditions for anticipating growth in demand, on both the level if each country (effects of growth and revenue redistribution, absence of infrastructures, etc.) and on the worldwide level by taking into consideration contradictory effects of globalization on these markets (increase of systemic risks related to financial globalization).

Within this context, one may also wonder how long sectorial policies implemented to favor the automobile will survive, notably policy regime (trade policy and control of foreign investments). The evolution of these policies must take into account the liberalization of finance and trade under the guidance of the World Trade Organization, but also how emerging countries integrate the world automobile industry.

In light of their potential market (China, India, Russia) or their ambition (Indonesia), certain countries have begun developing a national automobile industry. How have these policy choices evolved and are they sustainable ? Will they contribute to transforming these countries into new competitors on the international scene, as was the case with South Korea and its subsequent rivalry with Japan, the United States, or Europe ?

In other cases, regional integration strategies have been initiated in Southeast Asia (ANSEA) and in South America (MERCOSUR). Can regional integrations developing on the outskirts of the Triad's dominant poles survive despite internal contradictions of interests and strategies among member countries (Argentina versus Brazil, national auto policies as in Indonesia), and also despite pressure from industrialized nations (United States and Japan).

Insofar as regional integrations dominated by the Triad are concerned (NAFTA, European Union), one should question the conditions available for the integration of emerging countries and the credibility of delocalization perspectives, for different countries and activities.

From the standpoint of Southern hemisphere countries, the preceding mirror-like reasoning could be reformulated as follows : isn't globalization a threat for emerging countries ? Indeed, among so-called emerging countries, several of them already have older, traditional automobile industries which are being profoundly shaken up by the opening of borders and attempts to integrate the international context. In light of costs involved, one may wonder whether it is in the interest of certain Southern hemisphere countries to encourage the development of an automobile industry on their territory, an issue which is rarely raised as one witnesses the efforts some of these countries make to attract automobile firms.

One of the most important realms concerns supply relations which are remodeled under the influence of global supply strategies. How has the increasing globalization of North American, European, and Japanese suppliers affected local component industries in emerging countries ? Won't carmakers-supplier relations change under the effect of globalization ? It is most probably in this field that industrialized countries can learn from emerging countries. This learning could result from the search for solutions to specific local problems, which can then lead to a change in central areas (for example, changes in Japanese carmakers-supplier relations based on Southeast Asian experiences). It can also be the result of deliberate experimentations of new productive organizations in regions more likely to accept important modifications, especially in the realm of wage relationships ("modular consortium" and other experiments in Brazil, "fractal production" in Bratislava, VW-Skoda).

Indeed, globalization of the automobile industry has pushed for a reconfiguration of wage relationships, more notably by emphasizing different aspects of work flexibility. Partial data exist relative to this particular issue, and a more systematic analysis of evolutions underway has become necessary in order to evaluate the real impact in emerging countries.

All of these transformations are leading towards a geographic redistribution of activities. It is important to underline the new spatial division of activities underway on both a global level and within each region or country by studying specializations and complementarities insofar as localization of design, assembly, component production, and second tier subcontractors are concerned. The main question is how does one manage the contradiction between the centralization of resources (economies of scale) and decentralization towards other markets so as to specify products. If one takes the example of design activities, the question to ask is what place will emerging countries occupy : will existing competencies disappear (for example in Brazil), or will they be reconverted to only serve the function of adapting local conditions and products ? Can new competencies find a place in the framework of international specialization ? (for example, the implantation of a Delphi research and development center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico). Similar questions can be asked relative to the localization and management of assembly plants or component production plants, at either a global or regional level.

These questions are raised in the call for papers for GERPISA's next international colloquium (Paris, June 4-6 1997) where appear in a general form so as to cover the topic "new spaces" (emerging countries and regional integrations of industrialized countries). In addition, it has been agreed to publish a book on emerging countries which will present first results of the program at the beginning of 1999. Other means of diffusing research results were also discussed : Actes du GERPISA, publishing a larger and more extensive book at the end of the program. Members of the network who wish to be more directly involved in the GERPISA research on emerging countries are invited to respond to the call for papers for the next colloquium. They may contact one or the other of the following coordinators :

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