Special Economic Zones and the Perpetual Pluralism of Global Trade and Labor Migration
51 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2016 Last revised: 12 Sep 2017
Date Written: December 23, 2016
When we think about the legal drivers of globalization, why does the free movement of people lag so far behind the free movement of goods and services? While agreements to lower barriers to cross-border trade are enforced by global legal rules and institutions, national governments indisputably control and limit cross-border labor migration. However, the relationship between trade and labor migration in international law is anything but clear-cut and simple. Rather, as this Article shows, it is ad hoc, decentralized, and pluralistic. This Article focuses on the use of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as an illuminating example. SEZs enable countries to selectively open borders to higher-skilled foreign workers while maximizing economic returns and minimizing socio-political costs. While advantageous to individual countries, this Article argues that the pluralistic status quo hinders comprehensive initiatives to harmonize the liberalization of trade and labor and promote freedom of movement in international labor markets.
Keywords: international trade law, immigration, labor migration, special economic zones, free trade zones, regional free trade agreements, legal pluralism, institutional fragmentation, Panama
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