While understanding the influence of private governance through global lead firms has been a defining feature of global value chain (GVC) analysis, the state has often been implicitly observed as part of the broader institutional context shaping GVCs. More recently, however, the state–GVC nexus has attracted more explicit attention. Drawing on insights from GVC research, this paper highlights four roles of the state within GVCs – as facilitator, regulator, producer and buyer – and outlines key issues on the research agenda in relation to each role. While the facilitator role has received considerable attention and the regulator role is a growing focus, those of producer and buyer are relatively underexplored. The paper concludes that the contemporary reformulation of economic globalisation means the state–GVC nexus is, and will continue to be, especially significant in shaping development outcomes.