3 Apr 2013    Reports/ Presentations
Jurje, Flavia , Lavenex, Sandra

The trade-migration nexus: venue-shopping on international mobility

The trade-migration nexus: venue-shopping on international mobility

Presentation of the paper by Sandra Lavenex and Flavia Jurje (University of Lucerne) at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention "The Politics of International Diffusion: Regional and Global Dimensions", San Francisco, 3-6 April 2013.


Rather unnoticed from the academic literature on international migration, which stresses the absence of international norms on labour migration, a dynamic agenda on trade-related mobility rights is taking shape that is basically the result of active venue-shopping on the part of southern emerging economies against the protective interests of northern markets. The door to this agenda was opened in 1995 with the inclusion of so-called “mode 4” mobility of natural persons as one out of four modes how service trade was liberalized within the General Agreement on Trade in Services of the WTO (GATS). Whereas current GATS mode 4 commitments are quite limited, basically reflecting former trade hegemons’ lowest common denominator, recent initiatives and in particular regional and bilateral Free Trade Agreements point at a gradual expansion of these clauses beyond the EU’s or US’ original intentions.

Correspondingly, emerging economies, with the lead of India and, although less overtly, Mexico, have increased their pressure for more generous mode 4 liberalization at all levels of trade negotiation: multilaterally, plurilaterally and bilaterally. To the extent that these initiatives materialize, they are a salient example of the growing evolution of emerging economies from rule-takers to rule-makers in the regulation of international trade – and beyond. In assessing the dynamics behind this emerging service trade related mobility regime, in spite of its obvious tensions with receiving states’ dominant sovereign control agenda, we highlight the venue-shopping and discursive framing strategies of interested parties (in particular developing countries, but also service industries) and the role of institutional path-dependencies and legal dynamics within a multilayered regime complex. Our study is based on the analysis of multilateral, plurilateral and bilateral trade agreements and their provisions with regard to mobility of natural persons as well as other primary documents related to trade negotiations and 21 semi-structured interviews with experts from relevant international organizations, the EU and various emerging economies.

Presentation slides, PDF