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Sandra Lavenex Working Paper

Globalization, trade and migration: towards the dissociation of immigration politics?

A presentation based on work completed for the PEMINT project. A related paper on 'Labor mobility in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)' is also available at:


In recent years, migration and migration policies have become prominent themes in political science. Arguing either from a globalist or a state-centred point of view, this literature converges in the observation that Western countries are strongly constrained in their ability to control immigration and have generally accepted more immigrants than politically desired. Although this literature provides important insights why restrictionist policies face limits in liberal states, this article argues that by focusing on "unwanted" immigration, it fails to account for another, fundamentally opposed trend in Western immigration policies, which is the gradual liberalisation of labour mobility of skilled professionals. Prominent in a variety of regional integration initiatives, the liberalisation of "desired" forms of migration has reached a global dimension with the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which is currently subject to a second round of negotiations in the WTO. With the adoption of these first binding multilateral rules in the area of economic migration, the global regulation of labour flows develops much more similarities with the structures established for the global regulation of trade and capital than is conventionally assumed.

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