Bilateral Migration Agreements and the GATS: Sharing Responsibility versus Reciprocity
Society of International Economic Law (SIEL) Inaugural Conference 2008 Paper
61 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2008 Last revised: 27 Oct 2010
Date Written: July 8, 2008
Shared responsibility calls on countries of origin and destination to share the costs and gains of migration. We portray this legal principle as the regulatory counterpart to MFN liberalization. The recommendations, guidelines and common understandings of the Global Commission on Migration, the International Agenda for Migration Management and the UN High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development suggest that shared responsibility may balance out the tendency of destination countries to over-regulate and the one of source countries to under-regulate migration. Bilateral migration agreements have been reinforcing the principle. Free trade agreements, including the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) liberalize the temporary movement of workers on the basis of the principle of most-favored nation treatment (MFN). At first sight, shared responsibility may seem to be the more natural choice for steering international migration. In the final analysis, the MFN principle of Article II GATS emerges as the more efficient steering tool. As it stands, the MFN disciplines preferential labor market openings and so takes the pressure off the traditional corridors of migration, which bilateral migration agreements have tended to cement. MFN treatment allows distributing the costs and benefits of migration evenly among countries, irrespective of historical, linguistic and other ties. Without the reciprocity inherent to trade liberalization in goods, however, conditionality should be available to the MFN principle, not least to reciprocate for MFN treatment.
Keywords: Bilateral migration agreements, GATS, MFN Reciprocity, Migration, Foreign workers, Guestworker, Migrant labour, High-skilled workers, International migration
JEL Classification: F02, F10, F22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation