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Migration and Social Regionalism: Labour Migration as an Unintended Consequence of Globalization in Mexico, 1980-2000

Chantal Thomas

Cornell Law School

June 18, 2009

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-013

Increased labor migration from Mexico to the United States between 1980 and 2000 stemmed in large part from macroeconomic policy reforms, implemented at the domestic and international levels, that we now associate with economic "globalization." These reforms were ushered in by the era of "deep economic integration" - the period beginning in the early 1980s in which domestic economic crises in many developing countries, including Mexico, set the stage for market liberalization supported by the advice and counsel of the Bretton Woods institutions.

For Mexico, the adoption of the NAFTA played a central role in effecting market liberalization and setting the stage for labor migration. Far from being the sole factor, however, the NAFTA interacted with a host of other important reforms in Mexico's investment, fiscal, and exchange rate regimes. And while conventional economic theory might have predicted that market liberalization would substitute migration, events as they actually unfolded proved migration and liberalization to be complements rather than substitutes.

By demonstrating the link between migration and economic liberalization across the Mexico - U.S. border, this chapter emphasizes the importance of understanding the connections between trade and labor in both scholarship and practice, and as such seeks to support emerging, interdisciplinary labor law and policy discourse. Too often, these fields have remained separated despite their overlapping analytical and empirical parameters. Beyond specialized scholarship and practice, however, the chapter seeks to comment on broader political debates over the sensitive topic of immigration. These debates too often portray migration influxes as exogenous phenomena, as opposed to effects of law and policy choices made by government actors in trade, investment, and related areas.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: labor migration, international labor law, NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, Washington Consensus, development, NAALC, North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, regionalism, trade agreements

JEL Classification: A14,F00,F01,F02,F14,F22,F42,G15,J40,J50,J60,K33,L51,N10,N30,N70

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Date posted: June 18, 2009 ; Last revised: July 10, 2014

Suggested Citation

Thomas, Chantal, Migration and Social Regionalism: Labour Migration as an Unintended Consequence of Globalization in Mexico, 1980-2000 (June 18, 2009). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-013. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1422041 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1422041

Contact Information

Chantal Thomas (Contact Author)
Cornell Law School ( email )
Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/faculty/bio.cfm?id=230
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