By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

The realities of today’s global value chains – and their effect on American manufacturing, trade and economic assessments and, ultimately, domestic and foreign policy – were among the topics discussed by a School of Information Studies (iSchool) professor and participants at two international trade organization conferences in Washington, D.C. last week.

Jason Dedrick, iSchool Associate Professor, was a panelist and presenter for meetings of the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) and the U.S. International Trade Commission. He offered perspectives on global value chain assessments based on research he has done on Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad. The WITA panels were titled, “Does America Win in a Global Economy? A Look at Global Value Chains;” and “Trade 101 on the Hill: Global Value Chains.” Dedrick also presented on “Value Capture in Global Innovation Networks: Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad,” for the U.S. International Trade Commission, where he also introduced some new research data regarding the trade metrics of the wind energy industry.

Dedrick’s remarks focused on research illustrating where value is created and captured in the manufacture of Apple products, and how that value is measured in terms of jobs created, worker wages, and where company profits end up in the global economic chain.  Accurate data is crucial because trade organizations use it as the basis to inform and advocate for policy decisions in government, he noted.

“Everyone, the administration, Congress, and current candidates, are talking about reviving manufacturing, but the question is, is that really where the best efforts could be put? Do we really want to worry about laptop and iPhone manufacturing in China, or should we be thinking instead about how we can create jobs or develop environments that have incentives, or whatever it takes to really restore our manufacturing base?” These are the types of questions that were discussed and responded to, he observed.

According to the Washington International Trade Association, global value chain concepts are central to operational questions the trade groups now face, including whether a “complete rethinking in how trade is measured and valued” is needed, and whether existing trade statistics are outdated,” WITA says.

Since manufacturing is a process done more and more throughout the world today rather than in any particular country, “People are trying to figure out if manufacturing is really critical and if we should  do whatever it takes to really restore our manufacturing base” or if looking at other forms of job creation is more feasible, Dedrick said. “The U.S. has strengths in manufacturing, but it may not create the millions of jobs that are needed to be created to bring us back to where we were 10 years ago,” he said. “Others want to understand where the jobs really are, and how much extra value comes out of manufacturing.”

Dedrick’s research interests include the globalization of information technology, the economic and organizational impacts of IT, national IT policy, the offshoring of innovation and knowledge work, and Green IT.  He has studied the economic aspects of Apple products manufacture for 20 years, and recently began to assess the new, contrasting models presented by wind turbine manufacturing and the wind energy industry.  

Prior to coming to the iSchool, he was senior research fellow at the University of California, Irvine.  Dedrick is co-director of the Personal Computing Industry Center, sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  He holds a Ph.D. in Management from the University of California, Irvine, and a Masters in Pacific International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego.