Liberalization of Movement of Natural Persons in Regional Trade Agreements: A Convenient Framework of International Cooperation for Managing Cross-Border Labor Mobility

Author Name TOJO Yoshizumi  (Faculty of Law and Politics, Rikkyo University)
Creation Date/NO. March 2007 07-J-008
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The purpose of this paper is to provide basic research on how sovereign states should cooperate internationally for effective control of temporary cross-border movement of labor, focusing especially on the accomplishments under the framework of regional trade agreements (RTAs). In the course of globalization, migration streams have increased in scale and become more diversified and complex, including irregular migration. Facing these trends, many receiving countries are enforcing tougher border control regulation, along with which the legal framework of international cooperation between countries of source and destination is being built for the purpose of controlling migration flows. With regard to the GATS Mode 4, a subset of temporary labor migration is also recognized as the subject of liberalization from the trade policy perspective. As a result, the cross-border movement of labor issue, which was previously subject solely to the controls and regulations of sovereign states as a migration policy problem, has in recent years come to also be recognized very strongly as a trade policy problem. While the GATS Mode 4 multilateral negotiations have not been able to accomplish results as initially expected, we can find various examples in which further liberalization has been realized in the case of RTAs. Their approaches to labor mobility are in a wide variety of ways. Some cover the mobility of people in general, including permanent migration and right of residence within the whole region and others are confined to GATS-type movement (temporary movement of service providers). This divergence is in large part explained by, firstly, the individual factors of each RTA including the geographic proximity, similarities in levels of development, and cultural and historical ties, and secondly, the extent to which the contracting parties are aiming as the goal of the RTAs: whether they aim at deep economic integration or limit their commitment only to the extent of contributing to trade and investment liberalization. The following results can be drawn from this research. (1) Problems regarding cross-border movement of labor need various regulatory methods corresponding to the various forms of labor mobility. (2) The types of cross-border movement of labor that should be liberalized on the MFN-treatment basis under the GATS multilateral negotiation are rather limited, and with regard to other types it is desirable that liberalization be pursued bilaterally or on a regional level. (3) The divergence of RTA provisions governing cross-border movements of labor reflects the complex intertwining of both migration and trade policies, and it is essential to study and understand their meanings from these policies' perspectives in order to achieve a desirable liberalization of cross-border labor mobility for all interested parties.