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CEPAL Review

Cepal Review is the leading journal for the study of economic and social development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Edited by the Economic Commission for Latin America, each issue focuses on economic trends, industrialization, income distribution, technological development and monetary systems, as well as the implementation of economic reform and transfer of technology. Written in English and Spanish (Revista de la Cepal), each tri-annual issue offers approximately 12 studies and essays undertaken by authoritative experts or gathered from conference proceedings.

English Spanish

Apparel-based industrialization in the Caribbean Basin: A threadbare garment?

In a world of some two hundred countries, only a relatively few –mainly members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development– can be identified as “winners”, that is to say, countries with high and sustained annual per capita incomes in the order of US$ 20,000. Among other factors, some of the principal features of winner countries are that: i) they have been through an intense industrialization process, ii) they have projected that process into the international economy in the form of exports of manufactures, and iii) the leading national companies which have exported manufactures have been transformed into transnational corporations (TNCs) in the process. Many developing Asian countries have used the apparel industry as a springboard to deepen their industrialization process, especially by becoming suppliers of “full packages” to international buyers, involving the complete manufacture of apparel according to the designs provided by their international clients. For many Caribbean Basin countries, apparel exports represent their principal link with the international economy. In this case, however, since those exports stem from a low wageexport processing zone-special access package designed to help United States apparel TNCs to compete better in their home market against Asian imports, they do not produce the desired developmental results in the Caribbean. The United States apparel TNCs employ only those factors that allow them to improve the efficiency of their international system of integrated production, which are essentially the low wages paid in the case of the Caribbean Basin. Consequently, instead of deepening the local industrialization process, they truncate it. The exports do not represent the external projection of the local industrialization process, but merely the assembly of imported components. The local apparel companies are not internationalized in the process, but instead have their very existence threatened. Thus, as part of a developmental trajectory, these activities have worn threadbare and need replacement by something better.

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