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Negotiating the Liberalization of Migration: Is GATS a Vehicle or a Model for Global Migration Governance?

In this second joint EPC-KBF Migration Dialogue Issue Paper, Jan Niessen argues that the General Agreement on Trade in Services might provide a useful model on which to structure an international migration management mechanisms.

This report is part of the European Policy Centre – King Baudouin Foundation Migration Dialogues: Global Governance of Migration: Challenges for the EU.

Migration should be firmly incorporated into the economic, social and foreign policy agendas, thereby doing justice to its diverse aspects and using the strongest policy instruments to tackle this truly global issue at the appropriate levels.

This paper looks at a particular aspect of the foreign policy agenda, namely trade in services, and explores whether GATS (the General Agreement on Trade in Services) is actually an international migration management vehicle, or could become a model for global migration governance. Bearing the overall GATS agenda in mind, migration should in both cases be considered a subject of negotiations aiming to progressively liberalize the cross-border movements of persons and to establish a rule-based migration regime.

The paper first describes GATS’ relevance for the management of international migration by summarising the current state of affairs regarding the liberalisation of the movement of persons. It includes that on this matter GATS has made little progress and argues that a change in the way migration is valued in Europe may have a positive effect on the negotiations once they are resumed.

The second part of the paper attempts to make the case for using GATS as a model for global migration governance by looking at some of its guiding principles and working methods and projecting them on international co-operating on migration.