Free Trade and Uneven Development

The North American Apparel Industry after NAFTA

Edited by Gary Gereffi, Jennifer Bair, and David Spener
Book Cover

PB: $43.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-968-5
Publication: Aug 02

HC: $79.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-967-8
Publication: Aug 02

Ebook: $43.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0114-4

368 pages
7 x 10
47 tables, 17 figs., 1 maps

How NAFTA has reshaped the production of clothing in North America


This volume addresses many of the complex issues raised by North American integration through the lens of one of the largest and most global industries in the region: textiles and apparel. In part, this is a story of winners and losers in the globalization process, especially if one focuses on jobs lost and jobs gained in different countries and communities within North America, defined here as: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. However, it would be a mistake to view the industry solely in these zerosum terms. The North American apparel industry is an excellent illustration of larger trends in the global economy, in which regional divisions of labor appear to be one of the most stable and effective responses to globalization.

The contributors to this volume are an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars who have all done detailed fieldwork at the firm and factory levels in one or more countries of North America. Taken together the essays offer theoretical and methodological innovations built around the intersection of the global commodity chains and industrial districts literatures, as well as innovative approaches to studying the impact of cross-national, interfirm networks in terms of production and trade issues, and local development outcomes for workers and communities.


"Free Trade and Uneven Development is a superb collection of essays that seeks to understand the process of globalization through an intensive geographical focus on North America and a sectoral emphasis on the apparel industry, all in the context of examining the impact of an important regional trade agreement. This rich, complex micro look illuminates broad trends shaping globalization and defines the costs and consequences of various trajectories. This book is an exceptionally important and unique contribution to the burgeoning literature on globalization." Harley Shaiken, Professor of Social and Cultural Studies and Geography, University of California, Berkeley

"There are no books that I know of that provide such a comparative analysis of the garment industry in light of NAFTA. The chapters all break new ground in their topics, yet are unified by the common theme of North American apparel integration, and the common theoretical framework of global commodity chains. The editors have assembled an impressive array of scholars, and the topic could not be more timely." Richard Appelbaum, Professor of Sociology and Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

"What the reader gets from this book is a subtle and nuanced picture of the effects of trade liberalization and NAFTA on the interfirm linkages, profitability, and employment prospects in the apparel industry...the overall quality of the contributions to this volume is very good." Work and Occupations

"(P)rovides an innovative model for analyzing a global industry, and will be very useful to students of international development, industrial relations, and economic sociology." Contemporary Sociology

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Part I: Analytical Overview
1. Introduction: The Apparel Industry and North American Economic Integration – David Spener, Gary Gereffi, and Jennifer Bair
2 . NAFTA and the Apparel Commodity Chain: Corporate Strategies, Interfirm Networks, and Industrial Upgrading – Jennifer Bair and Gary Gereffi

Part II: The Changing Face of the Apparel Industry in the United States
3. Subcontracting Networks in the New York Garment Industry: Changing Characteristics in a Global Era – Florence Palpacuer
4. The Impact of North American Economic Integration on the Los Angeles Garment Industry – Judi A. Kessler
5. The New Sweatshops in the United States: How New, How Real, How Many, and Why? – Robert J. S. Ross
6. Labor's Response to Global Production – Edna Bonacich

Part III: The U.S.-Mexico Border Region
7. The Unraveling Seam: NAFTA and the Decline of the Apparel Industry in El Paso, Texas – David Spener
8. Tex Mex: Linkages in a Binational Garment District? The Garment Industries in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez – Robert van Dooren
9. Commodity Chains and Industrial Organization in the Apparel Industry in Monterrey and Ciudad Juárez – Jorge Carrillo, Alfredo Hualde, and Araceli Almaraz

Part IV: Interior Mexico
10. Torreón: The New Blue Jeans Capital of the World – Gary Gereffi, Martha Martínez, and Jennifer Bair
11. Learning and the Limits of Foreign Partners as Teachers – Enrique Dussel Peters, Clemente Ruiz Durán, and Michael J. Piore
12. Knitting the Networks Between Mexican Producers and the U.S. Market – Ulrik Vangstrup
13. Fragmented Markets, Elaborate Chains: The Retail Distribution of Imported Clothing in Mexico – Jorge Mendoza, Fernando Pozos Ponce, and David Spener

Part V: Central American and the Caribbean
14. When Does Apparel Become a Peril? On the Nature of Industrialization in the Caribbean Basin – Michael Mortimore
15. Can the Dominican Republic's Export-Processing Zones Survive NAFTA? – Dale T. Mathews

Part VI: Conclusion
16. NAFTA and Uneven Development in the North American Apparel Industry – Jennifer Bair, David Spener, and Gary Gereffi

About the Contributors

About the Author(s)

Gary Gereffi is Director of the Markets and Management Studies Program at Duke University. He is the co-editor of Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism (with Miguel Korzeniewicz) and Manufacturing Miracles: Paths of Industrialization in Latin America and East Asia (with Donald L. Wyman).

David Spener is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He is the co-editor (with Kathleen Staudt) of The U.S.-Mexico Border: Transcending Divisions, Contesting Identities.

Jennifer Bair is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University.