International trade agreements and international migration

Despite large potential economic gains, bilateral and multilateral negotiations focusing on liberalisation of migration have not shared the high profile of international trade negotiations and agreements. Migration and trade have been traditionally viewed rather separately and the relevance of the many, and complex, interdependencies has been given remarkably little attention in the literature to date. In this article, we focus on the two-way interaction between international migration and agreements designed to enhance cross-border trade and investment. Liberalisation of international trade in services and in the movement of people potentially offers much greater economic gains than liberalisation of remaining barriers to goods trade. However, progress within multilateral frameworks is fraught with difficulty. The World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) has yielded little real progress so far and negotiations within more flexible unilateral and bilateral frameworks are likely to be more successful in liberalising the movement of labour. We discuss a range of specific examples, focusing particularly on the interesting case of New Zealand. We find that trade agreements are increasingly including agreements on migration, though typically favouring temporary migration and involving numerically modest quotas. We conclude that migration regulatory frameworks are likely to be further and more strongly linked to trade and investment agreements in the future, particularly given changing economic and demographic forces. The primary focus of migration policies may nonetheless remain different from that of trade policies. While further migration liberalisation is likely to be through bilateral and regional agreements, it will be important to try to lock in the gains of such agreements, while simultaneously working to consolidating these in a way that will help to facilitate future multilateral agreement.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Poot, J. & Strutt, A. (2010). International trade agreements and international migration. The World Economy, 33(12), 1923-1954.