This paper outlines a framework for the analysis of economic integration and its relation to the asymmetries of economic and social development. Breaking with state-centric forms of social science, it argues for a research agenda that is more adequate to the exigencies and consequences of globalisation than has traditionally been the case in 'development studies'. Reviewing earlier attempts to analyse the cross-border activities of firms, their spatial configurations and developmental consequences, the paper moves beyond these by proposing the framework of the 'global production network' (GPN). It explores the conceptual elements involved in this framework in some detail and then turns to an assessment of issues of competition and regulation for firms absorbed into GPNs and the economies influenced by them. Appreciating the limited attention paid to regulation and competition (particularly the latter) in research guided by the antecedents of GPN analysis, the paper argues that once these issues are factored into the framework, then we have in prospect the possibility of analyses of 'globalisation on the ground' that can take us closer to formulating policies adequate to the task of economic development in a global epoch.