This paper challenges the mainstream narrative that links the strength and speed of the world trade collapse in 2008-2009 to the international fragmentation of production, organized in international value chains. The paper points out often overlooked counteracting forces such as non-bank-intermediated credit, trust in long-term commercial affairs and intra-firm relationships. A cross-section of the strength and speed of the import decline in 42 countries shows that both the share of manufacturing trade and an indicator for the vertical specialization in trade are associated with less contraction and slower adjustment. Countries with large shares of manufactures in trade (a proxy for international value chain activity) and/or vertical specialization in trade did not reduce their trade more strongly. The empirical evidence points out that international value chains may very well have had a major dampening effect that reduced the extent to which world trade fell.

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Keywords World trade collapse, international fragmentation of production, value chains, vertical integration
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Journal International Economic Journal
van Bergeijk, P.A.G. (2013). The World Trade Collapse and International Value Chains: A Cross-Country Perspective. International Economic Journal, 27(1), 41–53. doi:10.1080/10168737.2012.658833