Gary Gereffi: Global Supply Chains in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the past half century, globalization has transformed how nations, firms, and workers compete in the international economy. A sociologist with a business mindset, Gary Gereffi (ND ’70) draws on his long career as an academic and policy activist to provide insight into how Global Value Chains (GVC) impact the worlds’ emerging economies. 

This topic is particularly important today owing to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global trade---as businesses have gone into lockdown and demand has dried up.  At the same time, there has been exploding demand for all variety of medical supplies, testing kits, PPE, and nasal swabs across the globe, with demand far exceeding supply.  

This rich and insightful episode of the Global Pathways Podcast gets Dr. Gereffi's take on what is going on, how did we get here, and what does this mean for globalization as we know it. 

Guided Listening

01:50 - An introduction to the Global Value Chains framework

07:15 - What are GVCs adding to globalization and why should development actors care?

11:04 - The impacts of globalization on inequality issues

15:00 - Fragile vs. resilient supply chains

20:30 - COVID-19 and medical supply chains

24:30 - U.S. policy failures in dealing with the pandemic

31:00 - The role of the Defense Production Act

34:45 - Medical supply distribution bottlenecks: international and domestic

42:30 - The high percentage of PPE produced outside of the U.S.

45:30 - The need for diversified U.S. supply partners

46:15 - Should we reshore low-cost PPE items?

47:30 - Nearshoring and the role of U.S. regional partners

49:45 - The role of Latin America vs. Asia in U.S. trade

53:30 - The U.S. - China relationship

COVID-19 and Global Supply Chains

The materials below relate directly to the topics covered in this episode and complement the guided listening index: 

2021 - “Increasing resilience of medical supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Industrial Analytics d

2020 - [VIDEO] Covid-19 and medical supply shortages 

2020 - "What does the COVID-19 pandemic teach us about GVCs? The case of medical supplies," Journal of International Business Policy

2020 - "Coronavirus Consequences on Global Value Chains," Strategic Management Society

2020 - "An integrative typology of global strategy and global value chains: The management and organization of cross-border activities," Global Strategy Journal

2020 - [VIDEO] Medical Trade Wars: The search for drugs, devices and PPE

2020 - [VIDEO] COVID-19 and Global Supply Chains: Disruptions and Restructuring

Additional Resources

2022 - “On the Road to Global Value Chains: How Industry Dynamics Reshaped Global Value Chains.” In M. Kipping, T. Kurosawa, and D.E. Westney (eds)., Oxford Handbook of Industry Dynamics, online access at

2020 - Shaping Sustainable Supply Chains: Hosted by the German Development Institute, the podcast investigates multiple societal dilemmas arising in global supply chains and offers insights into evidence-based solutions to shift towards more sustainable and fair global supply chains. Watch this quick video for more about this episode

2020 - "Global value chains: A review of the multi-disciplinary literature," Journal of International Business Studies

2019 - "Global value chains and international development policy: Bringing firms, networks and policy-engaged scholarship back in," Journal of International Business Policy 

2018 - Global Value Chains and Development (Cambridge University Press)

2014 - Duke GVC Summit: The Duke GVC Summit brought together leading international organizations, government agencies, and NGOs, along with several dozen academics, practitioners, and policymakers from 12 countries who were thought leaders and experts on GVCs. Of note are the keynote address by Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and interviews with Mr. Lamy and Anabel Gonzalez, former Trade Minister of Costa Rica and Senior Director of the World Bank's Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice. 

2014 - North Carolina in the Global Economy: Researchers at the Duke GVC Center created a website that uses the tools of value chain analysis to examine seven of the main industries in North Carolina in terms of trade, employment, and production dynamics during a 20-year period (1992-2012). This website is a proof of concept for how university researchers could contribute useful knowledge for policymakers, businesses, and workers at the state level. 

2005 - Is Wal-Mart Good for America? This PBS Frontline documentary from 2005 focuses on the impact of Wal-Mart's global sourcing strategy on US communities, workers, and consumers. Dr. Gereffi is featured in this video, which raises many issues that remain controversial today.

About Dr. Gary Gereffi

Gary Gereffi

Dr. Gary Gereffi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness at Duke University, where he teaches courses in economic sociology, globalization, and comparative development, and international competitiveness.  

Recognized as one of the founders of the Global Value Chains (GVC) framework, Dr. Gereffi has worked closely with large corporations such as Maersk Group, Nike, Walmart, and Patagonia to evaluate their sustainable development and environmental impact strategies. He has also worked with the International Labor Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the World Bank – as well as non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam and the Environmental Defense Fund – to design and evaluate programs of inclusive and sustainable development that continue to evolve through the current era of trade wars and the U.S. electoral cycle.

Dr. Gereffi has published extensively on economic development and business-government relations in various parts of the world.  He is best known for his sociological research and writing on the emergence of global supply chains, a relatively new field of research in which Gary has been a pioneer.  

View Dr. Gereffi's Full CV   |   View Dr. Gereffi's Brief CV and Bio 

Recent Publications

2023 - “Navigating 21st Century Industrial Policy,” Columbia FDI Perspectives, September 16, No. 366.

2023 - “How to Make Global Supply Chains More Resilient,” Columbia FDI Perspectives, January 9, No. 348.

2023 - “Using the Global Value Chain Framework to Analyse and Tackle Global Environmental Crises” (Valentina De Marchi and Gary Gereffi). Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, 50, 1: 149-159.

2022 - China’s New Development Strategies: Upgrading from Above and from Below in Global Value Chains (Gary Gereffi, Penny Bamber, and Karina Fernandez-Stark, co-editors). Singapore: Palgrave-Macmillan.

2019 - “Introduction to the Handbook on Global Value Chains” (Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj- Reichert). Pp. 1-27 in Stefano Ponte, Gary Gereffi and Gale Raj-Reichert (eds.), Handbook on Global Value Chains (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing).