Emerging International Business Transactions: From Global Supply Chains to Global Value Chains

Today, more than two-thirds of all transnational trade is conducted by multinational corporations. And a full half of that trade – that is, over one third of all transnational trade – is performed between corporate subsidiaries. Global supply chains, as the conduits of much of that trade, therefore stand at the center of global commerce. At the same time, the role of global supply chains is changing. Whereas once global supply chains were merely a means for first-world corporations to obtain cheaper goods and services, now, from the consequences of the deadly factory fires in Bangladesh to labels of "organic" on many foodstuffs, we see global business relationships as well as global political relationships playing out in novel ways.

Over the past twenty years, a robust body of multidisciplinary research has developed using the phrase "global value chain" as a descriptive and analytic tool for examining the dynamically evolving role of global supply chains in the current global political economy. Indeed, the linkages within global value chains have become the primary conduit for many types of commercially critical transfers, ranging from capital itself to knowledge and technology, including intellectual property. Understanding the form and function of the business relationships that make up these chains is therefore as important as understanding the legal frameworks that drive that global business.

This seminar will examine various ways that the law is implicated in global value chains. To do so, we will weave together strands of contract law, corporate law, international law, conflicts law, antitrust law, and intellectual property law, among others. We will first work through a framework of what the value chain label provides as both a descriptive and an analytic tool. In short, what are global value chains and why are they important? With this foundation, we will then explore the role of law in these value chains. In the end, our goals are: (1) to recognize these new patterns of global commerce; (2) to isolate multiple areas of law that are central to that commerce; and (3) to explore ways that on the one hand law frames these new patterns of commerce, and on the other, ways that these new patterns of commerce are pushing the boundaries of existing law.

The class will be in a seminar format. In regard to grading, there will be two options. The first is a 25-page final paper. (For those interested in satisfying their 30-page writing requirement, I will be happy to work with you to achieve that goal and extra time will be allowed for doing so.) The second option involves weekly analytical (not descriptive!) papers, for a 25-page total. Grading will be divided as follows: 10% for attendance and participation; 10% for a one-time reflection paper and presentation; 20% for a partial draft of the final paper; and 60% for the final paper (or: 80% for weekly papers).
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