The paper investigates the role of global supply chains in explaining the trade collapse of 2008-2009 and the long-term variations observed in trade elasticity. Building on the empirical results obtained from a subset of input-output matrices and the exploratory analysis of a large and diversified sample of countries, a formal model is specified to measure the respective short-term and long-term dynamics of trade elasticity. The model is then used to formally probe the role of vertical integration in explaining changes in trade elasticity. Aggregated results on long-term trade elasticity tend to support the hypothesis that world economy has undertaken in the late 1980s a "traverse" between two underlying economic models. During this transition, the expansion of international supply chains determined an apparent increase in trade elasticity. Two supply chains related effects (the composition and the bullwhip effects) explain also the overshooting of trade elasticity that occurred during the 2008-2009 trade collapse. But vertical specialization is unable to explain the heterogeneity observed on a country and sectoral level, indicating that other contributive factors may also have been at work to explain the diversity of the observed results.