In today’s global manufacturing system, production is increasingly dispersed across borders. Particularly noteworthy is the rapid expansion of industrial exports from third world countries, especially the NICs of East Asia. With the entry of the formerly socialist countries of eastern Europe into the global capitalist economy, the dynamics of global economic restructuring are likely to change. This paper focuses on the lessons that can be learned from studying trans‐Pacific global commodity chains, drawing out implications for East‐Central Europe. In particular, we explore the role of flexibilization, subcontracting and state policy.