Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Toward International Order in Migration and Trade?

Academic journal article Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law

Toward International Order in Migration and Trade?

Article excerpt

The panel was convened at 10:45 a.m., Friday, March 30, by its moderator, Joel Trachtman of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, who introduced the panelists: Tomer Broude of Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Howard Chang of the University of Pennsylvania; Bimal Ghosh of the International Organization of Migration; and Susan Martin of the Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University.


By Joel P. Trachtman **

The late nineteenth century was a period of liberal policies toward migration. The United States, which to a great extent remains a nation of immigrants, only began to restrict immigration in the 1870s. While global society during the past century has made important strides toward free movement of goods, money, and even some types of services, human migration for economic and non-economic reasons remains broadly constrained. In the European Union, the drive toward free trade and economic integration has been defined in terms of four freedoms: free movement of goods, services, money, and labor. The European Union has made important progress in achieving free movement of labor. The U.S.-Mexican border, by comparison, is formally restricted, but informally rather porous. It imposes informal costs and dangers on illegal immigrants.

The dual pressures of globalization and demographic imbalance call for greater legal structure to facilitate and regulate economic migration. Wealthier states such as Germany, Japan, and the United States are anticipating labor shortages that will have substantial adverse consequences for their prosperity and for their ability to fund social welfare programs. In some states these shortages arise from fertility rates that are below replacement levels. While the global workforce is expected to increase substantially in this decade, the vast majority of the increase will take place in developing countries. Therefore, wealthy states need to join with poor states to manage and regularize, and even to encourage, flows of immigrant labor. While this need will be reflected in part in unilateral policy measures, it will become important, for a variety of reasons addressed in this work, to enter into international agreements to manage flows of immigrant labor.

There are great gains in welfare to be made in freeing up international economic migration, just as there are great gains to be made in freeing up international trade in goods, services, and money. It is estimated that a modest increase in industrial countries' quotas on incoming temporary workers equal to 3% of their current work forces would result in increased world welfare of more than US$150 billion a year. (1) These gains would be shared by developed and developing countries. But perhaps more importantly, under certain circumstances, emigration can help to raise the living standards in poor countries. In order to achieve these gains, it is necessary to overcome obstacles to bargaining, and to assist political processes in realizing the magnitude of the potential gains. With so much welfare improvement to be gained, states will endeavor to overcome these obstacles to bargaining.

In economic terms, migration is a result of demand and supply. Demand to migrate is increased by conditions in departure countries, compared to conditions in destination countries. Poverty, human rights abuses, insecurity, disease, and other negative factors in the departure countries, combined with their opposites in the destination countries, increase demand for migration. Supply of migration opportunities depends on the costs of travel and information, the ease of obtaining legal permission for migration to the destination country, and the ease of evading enforcement of legal restrictions. Supply and demand will adjust towards equilibrium. Occasionally, shocks will occur changing some of these parameters, thereby increasing or reducing demand or supply.

Pressure to emigrate from poor countries is increasing. …

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