Monday, January 17, 2005

Back to the future?

All the material on the apparel sector in Mexico and Central America points to one positive outcome: you can draw in TNCs to kickstart the industry and then as it develops perhaps it will generate not only greater production but demand for the creation of domestic firms. Those firms can then (hopefully) compete against the big boys both in the domestic and export markets.

But is it evident that will happen? Even assuming the supposed 'upgrading' occurs, will the domestic economy benefit? Not without a government firmly committed to national development and with a clear industrial policy, like those in East Asia. Without that chances are TNCs will take charge of the process.

But how do we go about creating such measures in Latin America? Not only does the region still suffer from the legacy of the collapsed state-led model of the 1960s and 1970s, how can the business community and relevant political actors be encouraged to develop their domestic sectors? It's going to be hard, not least because of the tendency for Latin America's elite to look towards Miami as a place to put their money in, rather than in local firms.

I'm hugely simplifying, of course, but it is a poser.

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