This study analyzes the impact of international trade on the diffusion of flexible manufacturing in a general equilibrium framework. Suppliers produce a flexible base product that can be adapted to the specific input requirements of a continuum of downstream industries. The vertical structure is determined by the trade-off between economies of scope in flexible manufacturing and product specificity of in-house production. In this framework, globalization can lead to alternating waves of insourcing and outsourcing, but once the world market reaches a threshold size, outsourcing prevails. We also derive a number of testable predictions with regard to firm size and productivity measures that are in line with recent empirical and casual evidence.
International Trade Flexible Manufacturing Outsourcing Vertical Integration Globalization General Equilibrium