The worldwide spread of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) is one of the most significant developments in the global trading system after the Second World War. In 2007 there were 3500 zones employing nearly 70 million workers in more than 130 countries (Boyenge 2007).
The following application asks for a two-year extension to an ongoing project in the fields of global history and social anthropology. The project traces how EPZs, intended as a tool for generating export-led industrialisation and national development, came to make up for more than 10 percent of global manufacturing employment in the formal sector. EPZs generate further employment by backward and forward linkages with other economic activities. The workings of EPZs have been and are tensely debated among actors such as corporations, nation-states, international organisations, trade unions, workers and the general public. Taking these factors into account, the global history of EPZs is studied in this project from 1947 until 2007. The central outcome of the proposed two-year extension will be the writing of the first book on the global history of EPZs. This book will describe and analyse how the new social contract formulated and put into effect in EPZs, defining relations between capital, state and labour significantly different from social contracts of upheld within nation-states hosting such zones, became a global issue since the world’s first EPZ was set up in Puerto Rico in 1947.
Work on the ongoing project so far unveils that the global spread of EPZs was and is a pattern of globalisation in its own right (cf. Neveling, under review A). In brief, EPZs were first promoted as part of the Cold War development agenda of the U.S. Truman administration in the late 1940s with the Puerto Rican EPZ as the best-practice showcase. Their spread was facilitated further by the U.S. Kennedy administration in Latin America and Asia (here also by the Tokyo based Asian Productivity Organisation). From the late 1960s to the 1990s, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), promoted the establishment of EPZs in increasingly close collaboration with Irish consultants linked to Shannon EPZ. In Shannon, training workshops for state officials from around the world have been held since the 1970s, with the later Chinese president Jiang Zemin attending in 1980 for example. From the 1980s onward, umbrella organisations of EPZs such as the World Export Processing Zones Association (WEPZA) headed by former UNIDO consultants orchestrated the establishment of EPZs in Central Eastern Europe (CEE) and across Africa. China is an exception to this global trajectory. Much larger zones were set up in collaboration with Hong Kong corporations since 1980 and presently Chinese zones employ approximately 40 million workers.
This history was reconstructed via archival and ethnographic research at the UNIDO headquarters in Vienna, in Ireland, in New York (United Nations) and Washington (a.o. U.S. National Archives), and in Puerto Rico. Before the initial funding period of two years ends, research will be carried out in Puerto Rico, Washington (2011, World Bank), Mauritius and Madagascar (early 2012). During the proposed extension period, research shall be carried out in Indonesia, Hong Kong and China (Shenzhen). EPZ-related activities of trade unions will be studied based on the example of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU, Brussels and Amsterdam). In early 2014, the researcher aims to finish a monograph that will make a significant contribution to the study of the post-1945 global economy regarding the development of theory and empirical research.