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Regional Development in Mexico: Global Production Networks in Yucatán

SEP 23, 2010 | 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


September 23, 2010: 4:00 PM




Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies


Professor James Biles

Deputy Dean, Division of Social Sciences, City College of New York

Associate Professor, City College of New York and The Graduate Center, CUNY


Mauricio Font

Director, Bildner Center


During the past two decades, the regional development policy agenda in Mexico has included both “Race to the Top” (clusters, sustainable tourism, and high-tech industry) and “Race to the Bottom” (maquiladoras and agro-export production) strategies. Using the state of Yucatán as a case study, this paper employs a model of regional development based on the global production networks (GPN) framework toassess the successes and failures of both types of strategy. In the context of the GPN framework, regional development is contingent on the creation, enhancement and capture of economic value, which emerges from the interaction between global economic processes and local assets, mediated by the local institutional context. Notwithstanding the rhetoric of local policymakers, this study reveals that both “Raceto the Top” and “Race to the Bottom” approaches have generally come short of promoting sustained regional development in Yucatán. However, the case study also suggests that the GPN framework not only serves as a useful tool for evaluating the deficiencies of local policy initiatives; ultimately, it may be used in an ex ante fashion to plan and implement regional development policy.

About the Speaker:

Professor James Biles

Professor James Biles is a Deputy Dean of Social Sciences and associate professor in the International Studies Program at City College/CUNY. He is also a faculty member of the Ph.D. program in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research explores the confluence of globalization, livelihoods and informality, particularly in southern Mexico. Recent projects include a critical appraisal of responses to Mexico’s “tequila” crisis and the recent bailout of the U.S financial system and ongoing research on the reconfiguration of global agrifood production and distribution systems and livelihood implications for small-scale producers in Yucatán, Mexico. Biles earned his undergraduate degree in Urban and Environmental Studies at Ohio University (1995) and his Ph.D. in Economic Geography at Michigan State University (2001). Prior to coming to City College, he served on the faculties of Indiana University and Western Michigan University.