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Labour Mobility and the WTO: The Limits of GATS Mode 4

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Abstract

This paper explores the development of the labour mobility provisions within the multilateral GATT–WTO system in parallel with smaller regional and bilateral agreements. Because expanded labour mobility provisions have failed to generate a critical mass of support within the WTO, it is argued that developing countries seeking market access for lower-skilled workers are better off seeking alternative venues, even though this is a more costly strategy. At the same time, it is useful for states to continue labour mobility negotiations within the WTO system because the regime serves as an important forum for the negotiation of common administrative processes and definitions. Multilateral efforts to increase transparency and reduced administrative costs will not only help to improve effective market access for commitments already in place, but will increase confidence in the ability of the WTO system to contribute to the management of global labour mobility.

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